Wisconsin to Issue Second Round of Benefits to Children Who Missed Free or Reduced Price School Meals Because of COVID-19 Pandemic
School P-EBT benefits to be released this weekend will cover the months of December 2020 through March 2021
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced today that the families of more than 250,000 students who participate in the National School Lunch Program will be receiving more than $80 million in food benefits through the School Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program. During the 2020-2021 school year, many schools offered virtual or remote learning, which meant children no longer received meals at school, putting an added stress on limited household food budgets. To help families, Congress authorized the P-EBT program through the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). School P-EBT benefits are being released to families on a rolling basis, and the second planned release of benefits begins the weekend of June 26.
“The benefits available through the School P-EBT program not only help families feed their children, they also support our communities, our grocers, and every part of our food supply chain,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “This weekend, we are taking the next step in getting these critical benefits out to Wisconsin families.”
School P-EBT benefits issued this weekend will primarily go to eligible families whose children learned remotely part or full time in at least one month between December 2020 and March 2021. Some families will receive benefits for August 2020 through March 2021 because their eligibility to receive School P-EBT benefits for August through November 2020 was confirmed after the initial round of benefits was released in March.
“We are using a wide variety of strategies to capture the information required by our federal partners to connect eligible Wisconsin families with these much needed food benefits,” said Secretary-designee Timberlake. “By utilizing all information available to us and working closely with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), school districts, and individual schools, almost 150,000 families will be getting benefits this weekend. While we have worked quickly and diligently to ensure every family who is eligible for these benefits gets them, if a family gets a letter saying they are not eligible for benefits and their child has been learning remotely, I urge them to contact the P-EBT Support Team by emailing PEBTsupport@wisconsin.gov or by calling 833-431-2224.”
How DHS connected families with School P-EBT benefits
Over the past year, many schools transitioned between virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning models, and many offered families the choice between having their children learn in-person or learn remotely. DHS worked closely with the DPI, school districts, and schools to collect data about which of their students learned remotely and which students learned in-person. Recognizing there are various ways schools track this sort of information across the state, DHS worked with the DPI to establish multiple additional avenues for schools to submit student-level data by:
- Building an online portal where schools could enter information about each student.
- Collecting spreadsheets from schools documenting students’ names and virtual or in-person learning status and entering information manually into the data portal.
- Working with individual families to assist them in requesting verification directly from their schools about when their children learned virtually.
These approaches have facilitated data collection in order to more quickly identify eligible students and get benefits to their families as soon as possible.
How the School P-EBT program works for families
If the information collected shows that children qualified for free or reduced price meals at their schools and were learning remotely, families will automatically receive benefits. Benefits will be put on QUEST cards for families that have the cards through other state programs like FoodShare, or on P-EBT cards sent to families without QUEST cards. Families will receive letters in the mail telling them whether or not they will receive benefits in this issuance, and if so, how much they will be getting for each month.
Contact the School P-EBT program if your child learned from home and you did not get benefits
If DHS or the DPI did not receive information or were unable to verify whether a student was learning remotely, families may receive a letter saying their child did not receive benefits in this round. If a family receives this type of letter but had a child learning remotely during any of the months listed, they should contact the P-EBT Support Team by email at PEBTsupport@wisconsin.gov, or by phone at 833-431-2224 (Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., excluding holidays). Once DHS receives verification an eligible student was learning remotely, information will be updated and that student’s family will receive the appropriate benefits – retroactive to the start of the year, if needed.