Washington families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals can receive up to $399 per child next month in one-time food benefits.
The Department of Social and Health Services is partnering with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to distribute Pandemic EBT, or P-EBT, in early July. The U.S. Department of Agriculture program is intended to help offset the cost of meals that children otherwise would have eaten at school.
“Many students rely on their school for nutritious meals during the day,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said in a news release Wednesday. “These benefits will help families most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis to continue to have access to nutritious meals.”
During the 2019-2020 school year, about 37 percent of Clark County’s 78,000 students qualified for free or reduced-price meals, a barometer for poverty in a community, according to the most recent available OSPI data. In Clark County’s largest school districts, Evergreen and Vancouver public schools, about 45 percent of students received that benefit.
Most families already receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, known in Washington as Basic Food, and whose children already receive free or reduced-price school meals do not need to apply for P-EBT. The benefits will automatically deposit onto their EBT cards in early July.
For other families, there are two deadlines to follow. Families who are newly eligible for free or reduced-price school meals — those who have lost income during the coronavirus pandemic — must fill out an application with their school district before June 30. Approved families must apply for P-EBT at washingtonconnection.org by Aug. 31 or the start of the 2020-2021 school year, whichever is later. They will receive the food benefits after their application is approved and processed.
If children attend a school where meals are free for all students, their families will also need to apply for P-EBT.
Families who prefer to apply by phone, need an interpreter or have questions about P-EBT can call the DSHS Customer Service Contact Center at 877-501-2233 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
The USDA said P-EBT complements existing child nutrition programs. Families are still encouraged to take advantage of summertime food programs funded by the USDA. Locally, these are hosted by school districts and nonprofits Share and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington, and typically start later this month.