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PRIORITY NOTICE:  USDA Pandemic EBT Program
PRIORITY NOTICE: USDA Pandemic EBT Program
Mary Ellen Barrett
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

On May 5, 2020 the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia and Vermont were approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the closure of classroom-based instruction.

 
Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont will be able to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants, and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households, to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. For the 2019-2020 school year, Maine had approximately 77,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 42% of children in participating schools.
 
Maine Fact Sheet
 
What is P-EBT?:
The USDA Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program is being managed by Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Maine Department of Education (DOE) is supporting by securely sharing data and promoting the program to districts. The program allows states to provide benefits (like SNAP or “food stamps”) to children who normally receive free or reduced-price meal benefits. 

How do families receive this benefit?
If a family has an existing Pine Tree card and is considered open on SNAP or TANF with a child in the household who was age 5 (as of 10/15/2019) through age 18, benefits will automatically be provided to their existing accounts in May. Families should verify the benefits have been added to their cards.

If the family does not have SNAP or TANF benefits but is qualified to receive free or reduced-price meals, they also qualify for the benefit. If the district has submitted their enrollment and economic status updates to the DOE regularly, these families should already be on the list DHHS is using for benefits. Families will get a new card and will need to call the phone number on the back to activate. Additional information, such as date of birth, will need to be provided to DHHS by the families as part of the activation process.  If the child was not age 5 as of 10/15/19 and received free or reduced lunch in Pre-K the family must request P-EBT through DHHS.   

If children did not receive free or reduced-price meals and a household is interested in the program, the family needs to apply for free and reduced-price meal benefits. The family can apply through their local school district.  Paper applications must be available during the school year, but online applications can be used.  If the family is found eligible, they can call 1-855-797-4357 and provide required information to an eligibility specialist. The district must do an enrollment update to DOE for the student’s name to be entered into the database shared with DHHS.  The information provided by the guardian will be verified with DOE data, so it is important that enrollment data provided to DOE from districts reflects the change. If families are newly eligible for free or reduced-price meals, they will only receive one benefit amount. 

What is the benefit value of P-EBT?
The P-EBT benefit is meant to replace the value of school breakfast and lunch while schools are closed. Benefits are issued on a card for families to use. There are 2 benefit amounts planned: 1) Combined March and April benefit is $189 per child and will be available in May. 2) Combined May and June is $194 per child and will be available in June.  

What if families do not want the benefits?
Families that already have a Pine Tree Card that receive benefits will need to call DHHS and ask to have P-EBT removed. Families receiving a new card for P-EBT (it will be a white card) should destroy and dispose of the card. 

Can students still get meals through our district during the Unanticipated Closure if they receive P-EBT?
Yes, this program is above and beyond the current COVID-19 Child Nutrition Programs being operated.
 
How often do districts need to upload enrollment and economic status information?
Districts should upload whenever there is a change to the student’s enrollment or eligibility. Data is transferred from DOE to DHHS every Thursday morning so to be included in that week’s transfer, data must be received by close of business on Wednesday.

Information about how districts should enter or upload the information may be found at:
https://www.maine.gov/doe/data-reporting/collection/helpdesk/resources/synergy_instructions
Information on how to manually enter the information may be found at:
https://www.maine.gov/doe/sites/maine.gov.doe/files/inline-files/EconomicStatusManualEntryGuide.pdf

More information on Economically Disadvantaged Status may be found here:
https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/economicallydisadvantaged

Who do I call if I have questions about P-EBT?
DHHS is the lead for this program. Please call 1-855-797-4357.

________
 
In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:
 (1)     mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
 (2)      fax: (202) 690-7442; or
 (3)      email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, religion, ancestry or national origin.

Complaints of discrimination must be filed at the office of the Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0051. If you wish to file a discrimination complaint electronically, visit the Human Rights Commission website at https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/file/instructions and complete an intake questionnaire. Maine is an equal opportunity provider and employer.