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For Immediate Release
March 7, 2022
Contact
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683

Families with Children Who Did Not Receive Free or Reduced Price Meals at School Due to COVID-19 Will Receive Food Benefits

Wisconsin issues first round of benefits through the 2021-2022 School P-EBT Program

This past weekend, Wisconsin issued $3 million in benefits to more than 44,000 families for almost 62,000 children under the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program for the 2021-2022 school year. Created by Congress in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the School P-EBT program provides vital food benefits for children who, because of COVID-19, miss the free or reduced priced meals they would normally have gotten at their school. Only children who are enrolled in the free or reduced price meals program and who attend schools that participate in the USDA’s National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program are eligible for P-EBT.

Significant changes to the federal P-EBT guidelines caused the state to rework program operations for the 2021-2022 school year. Benefits can only be provided for the exact number of days each month that a student was either learning from home or absent due to a COVID-19-related reason. DHS relies on data provided by participating school districts to issue these benefits. Because of this, school districts have played a crucial role in providing DHS with the information needed on each student in their free and reduced price meals program, at a time when schools are still grappling with other challenges caused by the pandemic. DHS is continuing to work with schools to submit information this month for the benefits that will be issued in early April 2022. No child will miss out on P-EBT benefits for the days their school reports the child was learning from home or absent due to a COVID-19-related reason, no matter when the school provides this information.

“The P-EBT program for the current school year is different from prior years because most children have been learning in-person at their schools since the fall of 2021. Nevertheless, COVID-19 has continued to disrupt some classrooms, keeping some students learning from home or absent, and this has caused some children to miss the school-provided meals that thousands of Wisconsin families rely on,” said Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “I am proud that Wisconsin was one of the first seven states with an approved P-EBT plan for this school year, and one of the first states in the country to have actually started providing this critical economic and nutritional support to families.”

Over the weekend, using the information supplied by school districts, DHS issued $7.10 in benefits for each eligible child for each day they were eligible in August, September, and October 2021. For most families, benefits were placed on QUEST or P-EBT cards they already have. Families receiving benefits for the first time will be sent new P-EBT cards in the mail.

“From the very beginning of the pandemic, DHS has been working closely with Department of Public Instruction and our school districts to stand up this new P-EBT program and support changes as federal guidance has changed,” said Secretary-designee Timberlake. “I know this year’s programmatic changes have required a lot of legwork, and we are deeply grateful to school staff for their dedication to supporting students and families through this program. These benefits will continue to provide much-needed economic and nutritional support to families that need help.”

DHS has scheduled five regular benefit issuances over the next several months that will cover the entire 2021-2022 school year:

Months of the School Year During Which At-Home Learning Days or COVID-19-Related Absences Occurred*Month when Benefits will be Issued
August, September, October 2021early March 2022
November and December 2021 early April 2022 
January and February 2022 mid-May 2022 
March and April 2022mid-June 2022 
May and June 2022 late August 2022 

*Each issuance will also include any new information from school districts about months of the school year included in previous issuances.

School districts across the state started uploading the required information about each student in their free or reduced price meal programs through a secure online portal in January 2022, to support the issuance of P-EBT benefits for the 2021-2022 school year. Because of the timeline approved in our plan, DHS introduced this process when many communities were dealing with COVID-19 surges caused by the Omicron variant. Many school districts were able to provide student-level data to DHS; however, others reported that they needed more time to pull all the necessary, student-specific information together. Many of those school districts plan to submit their information for August, September, and October along with their November and December data before the second deadline later this month. If DHS receives necessary data, families with children at those school districts can anticipate receiving their benefits in early April 2022.

Families with questions about their benefits should visit the School P-EBT webpage for more information or contact the P-EBT Support Team by phone at 833-431-2224 or by email at PEBTsupport@wisconsin.gov.

This program is operated through a partnership among the Department of Health Services, the Department of Public Instruction, and the Department of Children and Families.  

Last revised January 10, 2024