New Jersey recently received federal approval of its plan to provide special food assistance to school-age and preschool children.
Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) is a federal program to help families of school-age children buy groceries when schools are closed because of the pandemic. In the latest round, benefits have been expanded to include some preschool age children.
This federal assistance is managed through the New Jersey Department of Human Services. The P-EBT card works like a debit card to purchase groceries anywhere EBT benefits (also known as food stamps) are accepted.
This is the third round of P-EBT to be issued since the pandemic started and will cover the period of October 2020 through June 2021.
Who is eligible?
To receive this benefit, children must attend a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and must be approved to receive free or reduced-price school meals or attend a school that provides free meals to all students (known as CEP schools). School-age children attending schools that do not participate in NSLP are not eligible.
Based on the state’s plan, in this round, school-age children are eligible if, in any given month from September 2020 to June 2021, they:
- Engaged in remote learning (all school days at home),
- Engaged in hybrid learning (some school days at home, some in person), or
- Parents opted for remote learning, even if the child’s school was physically open.
Children in child care are also now eligible if they are enrolled in SNAP and their child care facility is closed or operating with reduced attendance or hours OR if they live in a county where at least one school is closed or operating with reduced attendance or hours. This basically covers every county in New Jersey so it is expected that all SNAP-enrolled preschool-age children will be eligible. Only children enrolled in SNAP will receive this benefit.
How much will families receive?
Children qualified for the full remote-only benefit will receive $122.76 a month, while those on a hybrid schedule will receive $61.38 per month. This equals the amount schools would receive in federal reimbursements for a student qualified for free school meals and includes a breakfast, lunch and snack.
When will the benefit be issued?
The New Jersey Department of Human Services is setting up a portal that will allow school districts to upload information about eligible children. That is expected to be operational in about 30 days or roughly the middle to end of May, according to the state’s plan. Once that is set up, state officials envision sending benefits to families within about 40 days, which would be around the end of June, although this is subject to change.
Families enrolled in SNAP will receive the benefit on their existing EBT card. Children not enrolled in SNAP will receive a new P-EBT card in the mail, according to the state’s plan.
The first distribution of benefits will cover all months in which a student was eligible since October 2020. Some students may receive a small additional benefit for September due to an increase in federal per-meal reimbursement.
Summer P-EBT also approved
The USDA also extended P-EBT through this summer and possibly summer 2022. This will be available for all students who attended a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and who are approved to receive free or reduced-price school meals or attend a school that provides free meals to all students (known as CEP schools). School-age children attending schools that do not participate in NSLP are not eligible.