*Read P-EBT June update here.
The Biden administration has renewed a popular free food program that fed kids who were unable to access free- or reduced-price meals at schools that were shutdown due to COVID-19.
Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, or P-EBT, is a food assistance program that loads benefits on EBT cards that can be used to purchase food at most major grocery stores. The program began in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now eligible K-12 students across Nevada will once again begin receiving P-EBT, a program that helped feed more than 300,000 low-income Nevada students who received benefits from October 14 to December 23 last year.
Nevada officials plan to apply for state benefits for the 2021-2022 school year within the next month. Nevada’s application must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program. So far USDA has approved nine states for renewal.
Upon USDA approval, Nevada state officials expect to issue P-EBT benefits from the 2021-2022 school year from July 2022 through October 2022. Daily benefits for the new school year will be $7.10 for all students.
Nevada distributed more than $490 million in P-EBT benefits to more than 300,000 children during the months it was allocated last year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DHHS), which administers the program. Those benefits covered meals missed from August 2020 to November 2020 due to school and childcare closures.
DHHS administrators in Nevada, however, note that future P-EBT benefits “may be significantly less than before,” due to the fact that students must be absent for five consecutive days or more as a result of COVID-19 to receive P-EBT benefits.
Any P-EBT eligible student who is absent or excluded from school for five consecutive days as a result of a COVID-19 infection or exposure will receive benefits, said state officials. For example, if a group of students were exposed to COVID-19 and sent home to attend school virtually for five days, the students would receive P-EBT for the days they missed.
Most Nevada schools have returned to in-person instruction and students can now receive meals in person, meaning many families will not receive P-EBT this school year or will receive fewer benefits than before.
“While we have seen some school closures this year, they have mostly been for fewer than five days at a time,” said DHSS Julie Balderson Knight.
But the recent omicron variant surge nationwide, including in Nevada, has led to a rise in school absences, closures, and shifts to hybrid learning which can affect food access for low-income students. Additionally, states that are not approved for the benefit this school year will not receive food assistance in the summer, when school is not in session.
“While households might not see the same amount of P-EBT benefits as they did previously, we remain committed to serving Nevada families knowing that every benefit dollar matters,” Balderson Knight said.
Nevada was projected to have one of the highest rates of food insecurity by the end of 2021 at 15.2%, as well as one of the highest projected rates of children living in food-insecure households at 23%, according to Feeding America.
P-EBT has seen heavy public participation in Nevada because it does not require parents to apply, making it “a very low burden to families,” according to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Cindy Long. The program, designed to target children who receive free- or reduced-price meals at schools, effectively reached needy children.
Families who are already receiving food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, received P-EBT benefits directly to their preexisting cards. For children in households that do not receive SNAP benefits, P-EBT cards were automatically mailed to the address provided by the students’ school.
More than 230,000 non-SNAP children were sent pre-loaded benefits on EBT cards that can be used to purchase food at most major grocery stores.
Nolga Valadez is the Benefit Services Outreach Manager for Three Square Food Bank in Southern Nevada, a nonprofit that partners with dozens of other entities across the state to address food insecurity.
Valadez said the nonprofit regularly received inquiries from families through its SNAP enrollment hotline about when they would receive the P-EBT benefits, underscoring the popularity of the program.
“A lot of people who knew about it but didn’t get it would call us,” Valadez said. “It has helped.”
Three Square launched an education campaign to inform community members about the program, including in-person outreach during events as well as at employment and vaccination centers.
Immigrant communities were the most reluctant to use the benefits, said Valadez, largely because they feared consequences under the now rescinded Public Charge Rule.
“Especially among the undocumented population, they would say ‘ I didn’t apply for this, I don’t want it. I don’t want anything from the government’ and it was a little difficult to help them understand they didn’t need to be afraid,” Valadez said.
Using the P-EBT card will not affect immigration status or prevent immigrants from obtaining legal status, assured Valadez. While the rule is now rescinded, P-EBT benefit was also never included under the rule.
“All this fear was put into their brain by the prior administration,” Valadez said.
Valadez said P-EBT also helped Three Square identify who might be eligible for SNAP, allowing them to enroll more people who were in need of prolonged nutrition assistance.
“It’s given us the opportunity to educate our community about EBT,” Valadez said.
Parents who believe their children are eligible for P-EBT but have not received a card in the mail should verify their child’s status using the Access Nevada System.
Parents can also request a P-EBT card using the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services P-EBT email [email protected].
To get the quickest response, parents should include all demographic information of the child and parent: first name, last name, and date of birth for the P-EBT eligible child, and first and last name for the person submitting the request. Parents should also include their mailing address and current phone number.
Depending on the request, it can take anywhere between 1-30 days, according to the Division. If a SNAP or P-EBT card has not been activated or used in 360 days, federal regulations require that the funds be expunged 365 days after the benefit was issued, so parents are encouraged to request assistance getting a card before then.
Parents who received a P-EBT card but misplaced or lost the card, can call the EBT processor, Fidelity National Information Services at 1-866-281-2443.
Parents can also call 1-866-5NVPEBT (1-866-568-7328), a dedicated vendor customer service line run by the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services staff who can assist with the majority of their P-EBT questions.
If students have recently changed addresses the health department recommends parents update their new address on Infinite Campus as soon as possible.
Recipients of P-EBT can check their balance and get other account information on ebtEDGE at www.ebtedge.com or download the FIS ebtEDGE mobile app.
How to use the P-EBT benefits card:
- You must activate and select a Personal Identification Number (PIN) before you can use your card.
- Follow the instructions that come with the P-EBT card and activate it using the child’s date of birth. This will allow for the creation of a private four-digit PIN number.
Instructions on how to set a pin for your P-EBT card can be found here, in English and Spanish. Additional information about P-EBT is found on the DWSS website here: https://dwss.nv.gov/SNAP/PandemicEBTinfo/
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