GREAT FALLS — The Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) will issue Pandemic Electronic Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to eligible families whose children lost access to free or reduced priced meals from October 2020 to the end of this school year as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. DPHHS estimates this issuance will benefit approximately 15,000 children.
School districts will submit each students’ monthly learning modes, such as fully virtual, fully in-person, or hybrid schedule from October 2020 through the end of the school year.
DPHHS plans to issue the first of two incremental payments to eligible families for October through February during the week of May 17.
It’s estimated that monthly benefit amounts for this allocation will range from monthly amounts of $68 to $116.
A second payment to families will be made in June that will cover March through the end of the school year. Benefit amounts for this allocation have not yet been determined.
Payments will be made to families through the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT card system to current SNAP households and non-SNAP households with eligible children.
All eligible families will be issued a new EBT card specifically for the P-EBT program regardless of if they already receive SNAP. Eligible families in June will receive additional P-EBT benefits on this same card. The benefits can be used at any location that accepts SNAP/EBT cards.
DPHHS Director Adam Meier said the federal government has recently approved Montana’s plan to continue the temporary assistance program. DPHHS first issued P-EBT benefits in 2020. During the week of May 17, eligible families will receive a notice from DPHHS about the P-EBT program, and within a few days of the notice the household will receive a P-EBT card.
Families do not need to apply for this benefit as DPHHS will use monthly attendance information provided by schools to determine children eligible for the program.
“Montana families have faced numerous challenges over the past year,” Meier said. “This has been a very successful program, and we’re pleased to partner with OPI once again to provide this assistance.”
The Office of Public Instruction’s (OPI) School Nutrition staff is working with DPHHS to connect eligible families to the program. “Our schools and families have done an incredible job adjusting to the twists and turns thrown their way as a result of the pandemic, and this partnership will help them focus on the well-being of our children,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen. “OPI will work diligently with DPHHS to ensure that this program is implemented in an efficient and transparent manner.”
Children are eligible if they would have received free or reduced price meals if not for the various educational modes implemented over the past school year. Eligibility for P-EBT benefits will be determined on a monthly basis back to October, and are based on the school and child’s circumstance for that particular month. To be eligible, a child’s school must participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
The P-EBT program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The federal funding for the current 2020-21 school year P-EBT issuance is not funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). However, additional P-EBT funding was made available to states for the upcoming summer by ARPA. During the first payment issuance in 2020, a total of $21 million was issued to benefit over 64,000 Montana children for lost school days during the 2019-20 school year.
People with questions can call 1-888-706-1535, email firstname.lastname@example.org., or visit MontanaMeals.org.