Submitted to OnFocus – Families across Wisconsin will get help feeding their children who usually get free or reduced price meals at school but haven’t this year because of the pandemic. In the December stimulus package, Congress authorized the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to renew the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program, or P-EBT, for the 2020-2021 school year. Wisconsin’s plan for providing benefits has been approved by FNS, and eligible families will begin seeing notifications and benefits in late March and early April. Benefits will be provided retroactively to the beginning of the school year. More than 350,000 families received P-EBT during the final months of the 2019-2020 school year.
“COVID-19 has disrupted Wisconsinites’ lives, budgets, and educational plans for a full year now,” said DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake. “The Pandemic EBT program will provide much-needed economic and nutritional support to families that need it the most.”
Many families will be notified of their eligibility in late March and early April. Families will automatically receive a letter in the mail about their benefits if:
- They have a child who is already enrolled to receive free or reduced price meals at a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program; and,
- The child’s school responded to a survey sent out by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and reported that students in the child’s grade attended class from home full or part time during certain months of the 2020-2021 school year; and,
- The child’s family currently receives benefits from another state program like BadgerCare Plus or FoodShare
If eligible families have an active QUEST card, the benefits will be provided on that card; otherwise, families will receive a dedicated P-EBT card in the mail. This ATM-like card can be used in stores to purchase the same items allowed under FoodShare.
Benefits received in late March or early April will cover the months of August through November 2020 if a child met the P-EBT eligibility requirements during that time. If a family has an active QUEST card, the benefits will be provided on that card; otherwise, families will receive a dedicated P-EBT card in the mail. This ATM-like card can be used in stores to purchase the same items allowed under FoodShare.
Families that do not receive benefits by early April, but believe they should have, will be able to fill out a simple application. A link will be posted on the P-EBT program webpage when available. This application will allow families to determine their eligibility and provide DHS with the information needed to calculate and send benefits to them. Families who have never received support before will first need to contact their school to apply for free or reduced price meals. Families can also apply for FoodShare online.
The P-EBT webpage will be updated with information about this program on an ongoing basis. DHS is also setting up a dedicated call center that will answer P-EBT questions for families and schools and work to resolve issues, beginning in early April. The call center number will be published on the P-EBT webpage when available. In the meantime, people are invited to submit general questions to [email protected](link sends e-mail). Direct answers will not be provided until the P-EBT support team is in place, but answers to the most frequently asked questions will be added to the FAQs on the P-EBT program webpage.
Wisconsin will also be submitting a plan to FNS for a similar program that will provide meal benefits for children 6 years or younger who are not in school. More information about that program will be shared when it is available.
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