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More federal food assistance money on its way to eligible Michigan school kids

school lunch
Tim Lauer
Creative Commons

Michigan has gotten federal approval for a third round of food assistance, known as Pandemic-EBT benefits, for Michigan school children whose access to school meals has been curtailed by COVID-19 during the current school year. The students' families can use the benefits to pay for food in stores or online.

The announcement came today from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The previous two rounds of Pandemic-EBT benefits were for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.

Students in pre-K through 12th grade are eligible for Pandemic-EBT benefits if they qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunch and if they learn remotely for part of the school year. These students get $7.10 for each day school was virtual or the students were absent because of COVID.

MDHHS said about 90,000 children are eligible for Pandemic-EBT benefits this year.

"Pandemic-EBT is a lifeline for families trying to find ways to keep their kids fed throughout the economic upheaval that was caused by COVID-19," said Joshua Rivera, policy director at the Economic Stability Administration of MDHHS.

"No kid should have to worry, just because they're learning a little bit differently, whether they can eat," said Rivera. "So this program, we know, has been a lifeline for those families."

Benefits are retroactive to September 2021 and will be paid through June of this year.

According to MDHHS, payments began last week for September through December 2021. Benefits will be issued this month for January and February, in June for March and April, and in July for May and June. Payments will be added to the Bridge cards of families already receiving food assistance. Families that do not already receive food assistance will receive a Pandemic-EBT card in the mail

Rivera said the state health department will automatically issue the payments to eligible families, and families do not need to apply to receive the benefits.

MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton said if families have questions about their payments, they may inquire at their child's school or by emailing MDHHS-PEBT@michigan.gov.

The Michigan Department of Education has provided meals during the school year at mobile and stationary sites to students whose in-person learning has been interrupted because of COVID.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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