Parents in Maine are buzzing with surprise as their kids unexpectedly receive Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards in their mailboxes. But why?
The mystery unraveled as it became clear that these cards, traditionally meant for adults needing welfare benefits, are being sent to schoolchildren! This unexpected move is the final act of a food assistance initiative by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) designed to support families hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, while the EBT cards typically come through applications for programs like SNAP or TANF, this unique scheme, named the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, has taken a different route. A whopping $166 million has already been distributed to over 150,000 Maine kids, making the whole state chatter!
This P-EBT initiative, which started its journey under President Donald Trump's signature in May 2020, was designed as a response to the pandemic under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. But here's a twist — this current burst of funds will be the LAST the program rolls out due to the federal Public Health Emergency ending this May.
Now, you might wonder, which Maine kids get these benefits? It's simpler than you think! They only need to meet two criteria:
Their school was shut or had fewer attendees due to COVID-19 for five straight days.
They either missed school or were in remote learning for five or more continuous days due to COVID-19.
Since Maine students are already eligible for free lunch, they must meet the above conditions. Rich or not, these attendance rules mean ANY Maine child fitting the bill gets the EBT card.
The cherry on top? Each card comes with $8.18 for every day a student was away or learned remotely due to COVID-19, letting them buy food items across Maine.
A recent revelation by the Windham Raymond School Nutrition Program on Facebook shed more light on the matter: a staggering 80% of Maine students are bagging these benefits. What a time to be a kid in Maine!
The Yarmouth School Department recently sent out an email to its community addressing the unexpected arrival of P-EBT cards received by many students. In their communication, the department clarified that they were initially unaware of the State of Maine's decision to provide these cards to their students.
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