SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a new food assistance program for children throughout the state who are living in households struggling with food insecurity. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program provides electronic food benefits to families equal to the value of meals children eligible for free or reduced-priced meals would have received at school.
“The COVID-19 crisis has placed additional economic strain on some of our families that were already struggling to put food on the table,” said Thurmond. “This program provides critical food assistance so that our students who are in economically challenged households can get the nutritious meals at home they need to thrive.”
For the 2019–2020 school year, California had approximately 3.9 million children eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch, which equates to about 63 percent of children in participating schools.
Each eligible child in the household will receive $5.70 per day for each day of the month in which school was cancelled due to COVID-19, for a total of up to $365 per eligible child. The program will provide an estimated $1.4 billion toward the feeding of school children throughout the state during this public health emergency.
Eligible students will be identified through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). Through an executive order approved by Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Department of Education was able to share CALPADS data with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to expedite the benefit distribution process.
The CDSS will automatically issue P-EBT benefits to children who were directly certified for free or reduced-price meals without an application and appear in the CALPADS data. P-EBT cards will arrive in the mail for these households beginning in early May. Children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals through the meal application process must apply for P-EBT benefits online in late May. Online applications will be accepted through June 30, 2020, and eligible families will receive benefits retroactively as long as they apply before June 30, 2020. More information about the online application will be available soon.
Students who receive P-EBT benefits are still eligible to receive meals at COVID-19 emergency sites and may continue to receive CalFresh food benefits if eligible.
For more information about P-EBT, visit the CDSS P-EBT informational web page.
For updated information about COVID-19 emergency feeding, please visit the CDE COVID-19 School and Child and Adult Day Care Meals web page.