The path has been cleared for nearly one million Pennsylvania students eligible for free or reduced school meals to get a supplemental payment of $370.50 each to bridge the gaps left by schools closing in the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes all qualifying students in Lancaster County’s 16 school districts.

The payments will be made starting on Friday, May 15 from United State Department of Agriculture through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in a newprogram known as the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT). Designed to assist students who get free and reduced meals under the National School Lunch Program, the program will be temporary.

Students are eligible to recieve these payments even if their school district has been providing meals during the closure.

If a family’s economic situation has changed since school closures began, they can still apply for the National School Lunch Program and, if determined eligible, receive P-EBT benefits.

The P-EBT benefits will be issued through EBT cards issued to qualifying families and that will be sent in the mail to the students’ homes. 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.

“Schools may be closed for the rest of the school year because of COVID-19, but students still need to eat breakfast and lunch. The Wolf Administration is committed to doing everything in its power to make sure that families have the resources they need during this public health crisis, and I am very grateful that the USDA will allow us to offer this support to families” said Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller. “Going without essential needs like food to get by now can jeopardize children’s health and development in both the short and long-term, and P-EBT will help families make up for the loss of in-school meals and avoid these potential long-term outcomes.”

DHS partnered with the PA Department of Education to apply to the federal government for this program.

DHS has determined that approximately 680,000 students who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch throughout the school year are eligible for P-EBT based on current participation in SNAP or Medicaid. Additionally, students who otherwise qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches will qualify for P-EBT if approved. All told, P-EBT will allow DHS to provide funds to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch for approximately 958,000 Pennsylvania school-aged children.

Families can apply online at Help is available for individuals and families who are having trouble accessing food during the public health crisis and the recovery period to follow.

All SNAP applications are screened for emergency need, which can accelerate processing time.

Pennsylvanians who need help feeding themselves or their family can also find and contact their local food bank or pantry throughFeeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania to access food resources in their community.