Michigan has become the first state to gain federal approval for a program that helps families feed students who were previously relying on schools for meals.
Through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, food assistance benefits will be given to students ages 5 to 18 who would normally be eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
Eligible families who were not currently receiving food assistance benefits will receive an Electronic Benefits Transaction card issued under the name of the oldest student in the house, according to the Michigan Department of Education. The benefits include $193.80 per eligible students for March and April and $182.40 per student to cover May and June.
Families already receiving food assistance benefits will get additional benefits on their EBT cards.
“I am proud that Michigan is the first state to receive federal approval for this program to put healthy food on the table for families that need them,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a statement. “The spread of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our state. My administration will continue to work around the clock to help Michiganders through this difficult time and slow the spread of this virus.”
The P-EBT program is authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Act, which offers help to families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Whitmer originally closed schools on March 16, although she recently announced they would remain closed for the rest of the school year. There are nearly 750,000 students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was authorized to provide the additional assistance through the USDA.
“During these unprecedented times in the United States, President Trump has authorized a whole of America approach to tackling the coronavirus, and by authorizing pandemic EBT in the state of Michigan, we are able to ensure the Americans who need food the most are able to get it,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a statement. “This is a challenging time for many people right now, and we are working every day to ensure all Americans have access to safe, affordable, and nutritious food to feed themselves and their families.”
MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a statement that the assistance will be a “small, good thing” for Michigan students.
“Children should never go hungry. Yet because of COVID-19, it is a risk unlike at any time in generations,” Gordon said. “I am glad that Michigan will be the first state to deliver SNAP benefits to families that previously received free or reduced-price lunches, whether or not they were SNAP-eligible.”
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]