Louisiana has been approved for the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Friday.
This program will provide financial help to families of children who normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school to replace those meals that were missed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. All Louisiana public schools and many non-public school facilities have been closed since March 13.
P-EBT benefits will be provided to households that apply if they include children who were in Pre-K through 12th grade and have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals, according to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) and the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
The benefits are intended to cover 50 school days, from the onset of statewide school campus closures through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.
Families with children who attend a Livingston Parish public school will be eligible for the program since all Livingston Parish schools receive free meals via the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
"This might be the only way some of our most vulnerable children can obtain a nutritious breakfast or lunch," Edwards said. "They used to receive these meals at school, and now Louisiana can provide that benefit at home, too."
Eligible families must complete an online application before being issued a P-EBT debit card by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Service to access benefits. The P-EBT card will function like a standard EBT card, and the same guidelines will apply.
The benefit will amount to $285 per child, Edwards said, or roughly $5.70 per day that the schools have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Louisiana officials estimate the state could distribute almost $174.3 million via P-EBT.
“It makes up for the cost of breakfast and lunch that they would’ve received if they’d been in school,” Edwards said.
Beginning Monday, May 18, families will be able to apply for the program on the Department of Education’s website, www.louisianabelieves.com. Applicants must provide the full names of the student and parent, date of birth, Social Security number, home address, school, and school district. The deadline to apply is June 7.
State officials expect considerable interest in the program and ask applicants to be patient in trying to access the portal.
Once the child's information is verified, DCFS will mail a P-EBT debit card loaded with $285 per child along with instructions for using the card. State officials expect to begin mailing cards May 26, and benefits will be available for 365 days.
The cards may be used at any store that accepts SNAP to buy SNAP-eligible food items.
Many Louisiana public schools already are providing emergency or "grab and go" meals to children regardless of the child's enrollment, family size or income, after receiving emergency permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The new P-EBT benefits do not preclude students from continuing to access those meals.