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Deadline is Friday for food support for school children

Families in 20 counties with low participation encouraged to apply

Brainerd Dispatch logo with news spelled out in block letters
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

Tens of thousands of children could miss out on healthy food if their families don’t apply for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, also referred to as P-EBT, benefits by Friday, July 31, according to a news release.

About 350,000 Minnesota school children who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price meal program are eligible to receive $325 per child with an additional $100 per child for Summer P-EBT.

Twenty counties, including Crow Wing County and Wadena, have particularly low participation rates where the families of 31-52% of eligible children have not yet applied for P-EBT. Crow Wing County has 37% of children still eligible and Wadena is at 33%. The Minnesota Department of Human Services has not received applications for more than 50,000 children in 83 counties across the state who may be eligible to apply. All who apply and meet the criteria will receive the benefit. If families have already applied, the state is either processing their benefits or sending them an email to notify them they did not meet the criteria.

“During this pandemic, we want to ease families’ struggles as much as possible,” stated Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead in the news release. “Feeding children is a basic need, and we want to ensure all families who need help putting healthy food on their tables receive this benefit. We urge families to apply by the deadline.”

The Federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act allows children eligible for the school meal program to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. This is in addition to any Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Minnesota Family Investment Program or unemployment insurance benefits their families may already receive.

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Families must use the P-EBT benefit to purchase food only within a year of the date issued. Eligible families who have children, 5-18 years old as of Sept. 1, 2019, who were receiving free or reduced-price school meals and the nutrition assistance program or investment program benefits as of March 18, 2020, received P-EBT benefits automatically on their existing EBT cards and do not need to take any action. However, if these families had a 3-4 year old child in a district-run pre-kindergarten program, they can apply for additional benefits for their pre-k child through the P-EBT application process. Families can check their EBT card balance at EBTedge.com .

Families who were receiving free or reduced-price school meals for the 2019-2020 school year, but who were not also receiving other benefits on March 18, 2020, need to apply for a P-EBT card to receive these additional funds. The application can be accessed at mn.p-ebt.org . Not all children in pre-kindergarten programs qualify. Only children in school district-run pre-K programs qualify.

For assistance, click on the “Submit questions” button on the mn.gov/dhs/p-ebt webpage for the fastest response. Or, contact the P-EBT hotline through July 31, 2020, at 651-431-4050 or 800-657-3698, between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but be prepared for long wait times. Families in need of additional assistance accessing healthy foods are urged to contact their county or tribal human services office, or the Minnesota Food Helpline at 888-711-1151 or www.hungersolutions.org .

Receiving P-EBT will not affect the public charge rule, which considers the receipt of some types of public assistance, among other factors, when the federal government reviews the immigration status of certain non-citizens who apply for legal permanent resident status (a green card) or renew or change their immigration status on or after Feb. 24, 2020.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Department of Education and Code for America are working in partnership on this P-EBT benefit.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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