I’m sure at this point you don’t need me to reiterate how disruptive the coronavirus pandemic has been. In an effort to help address how the lack of in-person schooling has potentially affected some students’ ability to get a good meal, families of Chicago students will receive $450 to help assist with food expenses.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program is a federal program designed to help students who relied on free lunch programs through school, and have had their access disrupted due to, well, the obvious. Families that have more than one child in the household will receive more money, and the fact that Chicago Public Schools provided meals to-go for students during the pandemic won’t affect a family’s ability to receive funds.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
Illinois is one of 20 states that submitted plans for P-EBT that were approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is overseeing the program. Illinois’ plan is valued at up to $110 million per month.
Every CPS student was eligible for similar funds last spring, but families who weren’t enrolled in SNAP benefits had to fill out an application to get a card — meaning potentially thousands missed out if they didn’t know about the program. This year, the money is automatically being mailed to all 355,000 students, about 76% of whom are classified as “economically disadvantaged,” CPS data shows.
The money will come loaded on cards that look similar to debit cards and should be accepted at most grocery stores. The cards are loaded with $6.85 for every day students were in virtual learning through December. In April, another card will be sent out that contains funds for the months of January-March, though as students gradually return to in-person learning, the cards will only contain money for the days the students attended virtual learning. In May, a monthly stipend will be sent to families for the remainder of the school year. The benefits must be spent within a year before the cards expire.
“Research shows that children who are hungry are not able to focus and learn,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in a statement. “Schools have served more than 113 million meals to students since the pandemic began, and the P-EBT builds on this care and commitment to ensure all Illinois children have their nutritional needs met.”
Illinois Governor J.B Pritzker said the program brought the state “another step closer to ending hunger for all.”