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Families to begin receiving additional P-EBT benefits this month

Thousands of North Carolina parents with school-age children will soon begin receiving additional assistance to purchase food through the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program, or P-EBT, which has been renewed for the 2020-21 school year. The federally funded program, which is administered in North Carolina by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Department of Public Instruction, was launched with school closures last spring.

P-EBT is a collaboration between the NC Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Department of Public Instruction. The P-EBT program is authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The information below gives a brief overview of what the program is, who is eligible, and how families will receive the benefit.

Eligibility for the program largely mirrors the requirements for the National School Lunch Program – school participation and family income thresholds – but to qualify for the P-EBT benefit, students must also meet a remote-instruction requirement during each month of eligibility. The per-child benefit will vary depending on the number of days spent in remote learning, with students who’ve been learning remotely for the majority of each month receiving the maximum amount.

The 2020-2021 school year extension of P-EBT benefits has some changes to meet the USDA requirements. North Carolina aims to provide P-EBT benefits to as many children as possible under the USDA’s guidance and we wish we could help every family.

It is the state’s goal to issue P-EBT benefits retroactively to students who were eligible between the months of August to December 2020. Notices will be sent to eligible households notifying them of their eligibility through the mail.

These benefits will be issued a month at a time over several days beginning in February 2021 to those who already have an EBT card (FNS or P-EBT). Those who do not have the EBT card and are eligible during these months should anticipate receiving cards in through the mail service in February or March 2021.

For the rest of the 2020-2021 school year, benefits will be issued retroactively on a monthly basis starting in March 2021 as long the student remains eligible. The benefits received in March will be for January and February 2021 and will also be issued a month at a time and staggered over several days. March benefits will be issued in April and staggered over several days, April benefits will be issued in May and so on. Benefits will continue to be retroactively provided every month as long as the student remains eligible.  

Another change for the 2020-2021 school year is the P-EBT benefit daily rate of $5.86 has been increased to $6.82 to include the value of an afterschool snack in addition to the breakfast and lunch a student would receive if they were receiving free or reduced meals each day they were learning in person.

The student’s learning mode will determine the amount they will receive each month.

Students in the remote learning mode (all virtual instruction) in the month will receive a benefit of $115.94 for that month. The remote learning mode amount will stay the same month to month.

Calculated as $6.82 x 17 days for a total of $115.94.

If there are less than 17 instructional days in a month, and a student receives virtual instruction 100% of those days, they will be considered being in a remote learning mode and will receive $115.94. If a student receives virtual instruction more than 17 days in one month, they will also receive the remote learning amount of $115.94.

Students in the hybrid learning mode (combination of virtual and in-person instruction) will receive the hybrid amount. The hybrid amount can change month to month and is determined by the average number of days North Carolina schools using a hybrid schedule conducted virtual instruction for that month.

Calculated as $6.82 x the average number of days each month. For example, if a student is in a hybrid learning mode, and the state average was 9 days for January 2021, the student would receive $61.38 for the month of January.

If there are less than 17 instructional days in a month, the student will be in a hybrid learning mode if they were in virtual instruction less than 100% of the instructional days for that month (7 of the 8 instructional days).

Since the allotment is based on a monthly calculated average, the benefit amounts may change month to month. The table below provides the amount an eligible student would receive depending on if they are identified as being in a remote or hybrid learning mode each month. This table will be updated each month as the average is calculated.

Families do not need to apply for P-EBT. Eligibility criteria are based on requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A school-aged child is eligible if their school participates in the National School Lunch Program and the student is eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the 2020-21 school year. Also, the student’s school must have been closed or has been operating with reduced attendance for at least five consecutive days during the 2020-21 school year as a result of COVID-19. The student must also be learning in a fully remote (all virtual) and or in a hybrid (combination of virtual and in-person) learning mode during the month of eligibility.

Eligible families already receiving Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) benefits can expect to receive an additional benefit on their existing EBT card. Families who received P-EBT previously and are eligible under the new criteria can expect to receive additional benefits on their original P-EBT card. Sometimes a new P-EBT card will be mailed even for those who already have cards and the benefits will be issued to the new card.

P-EBT cards for foster care students will be mailed to the local county Division of Social Services office that has custody of the foster care student. The student’s foster care social worker will provide the card or assist with transfer of the card to the student’s new placement. P-EBT cards for homeless and migrant students will be mailed to the address on record for the student at the student’s school.

For more information about P-EBT eligibility, about the program, who is eligible, and how families will receive the benefit, please visit www.ncdhhs.gov/PEBT.

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