Of the 605,770 Kentucky students eligible for the grocery money program known as Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), 106,514, or 17.6% have yet to claim it. They have until August 31 to do so and bring in $33.4 million to help families put food on the table, support Kentucky farmers and boost local economies.
Children who receive free and reduced lunch – including income eligible students and those in “Community Eligible Participating” schools that provide free and reduced lunch to all students, regardless of income – are eligible for P-EBT. The program is meant to supplement food budgets given the added strain of feeding students at home during school closures related to COVID-19.
Applications are only being accepted through the end of August. Parents must apply through a special page on benefind.gov, where they will need the following information for their student:
- Student’s first and last name
- Student’s date of birth
- Student’s ID number (which can be found through the student’s school district, and is often available through the student’s teacher).
This benefit is also available to immigrant families and does not count toward the public charge determination, so it will not affect students’ future ability to apply for citizenship. This is especially important as Hispanic children are more likely to be food insecure right now.
Some households with eligible students that have not claimed their benefit have incomes above the threshold for free and reduced lunch. These parents may be concerned that their participation in P-EBT would reduce the resources available for families with less income. But the Families First Coronavirus Response Act budgeted for all families who would have received free and reduced meals at schools last spring to be able to use P-EBT, in part to help put food on the tables, but also to act as an economic stimulus. With the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits and without another round of stimulus checks, participating in P-EBT is an important way of bringing in tens of millions of federal dollars into the state. If eligible Kentuckians don’t claim this money, it will simply be taken off the table and go unspent.
While the deadline for the initial round of P-EBT is looming, as long as schools that usually provide free and reduced lunches to students are not meeting in person, another round of P-EBT needs to be available to Kentucky families. The U.S. House-passed HEROES Act included additional funds for extended months of P-EBT and an expansion to children who would have been receiving food in child care settings. But the U.S. Senate has yet to take it up, and its own plan (the HEALS Act) failed to include more funding for P-EBT. The Senate should include additional funds in the next fiscal stimulus bill to ensure that while we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentucky kids don’t go hungry.