Pingree Announces Maine 1 of 20 States Approved for Pandemic EBT
Portland, Maine, May 6, 2020
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) announced the State of Maine was approved for their Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) plan, which opens up school meal reimbursement benefits for households with children eligible for free and reduced-price meals to both current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households as well as non-SNAP households. The P-EBT program was established through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, one of Congress’ initial legislative efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Maine is one of only 20 states to be approved for their P-EBT plan.
“For many students across Maine, school meals are the only source of food they can rely on; in 2020, almost 44% of Maine students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals through their schools. When the coronavirus first caused school closures across the U.S., it raised the issue of how children would receive the meals they normally got in school—especially as the pandemic caused economic uncertainty for many families,” said Pingree. “I’m proud that schools across Maine have stepped up to provide off-site meal services for many of our students, and this federal approval of Maine’s P-EBT plan means that even more students in need can be served directly. I’m grateful for this move, which is another critical component of our plan to keep Maine’s children healthy.”
In addition to supporting families who utilize SNAP, P-EBT will allow families who wouldn’t otherwise receive SNAP benefits to receive a P-EBT card that will reimburse them for the cost of school meals that are not provided during the coronavirus pandemic. Families with at least one child under 18 who normally has access to free or reduced-price meals at school will be eligible for P-EBT. The P-EBT program will provide an extra boost in buying groceries for the families of the more than 82,000 children who are eligible for free and reduced lunch at schools in Maine. Families will receive $5.70 per meal per child. Unused benefits will roll over month-to-month but must be used within 1 year.
Pingree has repeatedly pushed for accessible and reliable school meals during the coronavirus pandemic. On March 10, at the very beginning of school closures and response to COVID-19, Pingree questioned USDA Secretary Perdue, asking how the national school meals program would be affected during COVID-19. She also advocated for Maine’s Department of Education to be approved for serving emergency school meals off-site during school closures. On March 22, she joined with her colleagues in the Maine delegation to ask for more flexibility in providing offsite meals to Maine students, regardless of income qualifications.