Pennsylvania receives approval to launch food access program

The Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted approval to Pennsylvania to launch a plan for a food access program known as Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT). This plan will help families who may have strained resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), which administers the National School Lunch Program in Pennsylvania, has partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop and administer the program.
 
The approved P-EBT plan is temporary and will allow households to apply for P-EBT benefits that will be provided through EBT cards issued to qualifying families. DHS states that “a family’s benefit will be determined based off the federal reimbursement rate for the daily rate of free school breakfasts and lunches, or approximately $5.70 per child. This benefit will be calculated for the remainder of the school year, leading to an approximate benefit of $370.50 per child if they were receiving free or reduced-price school meals when school closures began.”
 
DHS estimates that the program will be able to provide funds to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch for approximately 958,000 Pennsylvania school-aged children. 
 
Now that the program is approved, benefits will begin to be issued to qualifying families within approximately 15 business days.
 
If a family has been financially strained since school closures began, they can still apply for the National School Lunch Program and, if determined eligible, receive P-EBT benefits. Families can apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us.