The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) and Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures. To prevent an additional burden on Mississippi families, no application is needed. Benefits will be issued to families with children receiving free and reduced lunch at school before school closed on March 19 due to the pandemic.
According to the plan approved by FNS, Mississippi will be able to operate P-EBT, a new food purchasing benefit to all eligible households including current SNAP participants, to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. MDHS anticipates disbursements to begin in late June. Once benefits are disbursed, they will cover the time from the date schools closed due to the pandemic (March 19) through the end of the school year (May 22). The benefits will be paid in one lump sum payment and will be retroactive to March 19.
For families who already get SNAP benefits on an EBT card, the P-EBT benefits will be added to their EBT card in late June. For families that do not receive SNAP benefits or do not have an EBT card, a P-EBT card will be mailed to recipients in early-to-mid July. The P-EBT card will be mailed to the address listed in the child’s school file.
“This benefit is part of our ongoing commitment to provide support to Mississippi families and children during this unprecedented pandemic season,” MDHS Executive Director Robert G. “Bob” Anderson said. “The Mississippi Department of Human Services will use all resources available to keep Mississippians safe, secure, and healthy and to keep children fed while schools are closed.” For the 2019-2020 school year, Mississippi had approximately 357,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or about 74% of children in participating schools. The total benefit of the program will be $90 million ($5.70 per student per day).