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Pandemic EBT benefits roll out this week

Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits will start rolling out this week to families with eligible school-age children who missed out on free or reduced-price school meals because of the pandemic.

EBT cards containing the benefits will be mailed to families with children in pre-K and K-12 who lost access to meals from the National School Lunch Program during the 2020-21 school year because their schools closed or switched to virtual and hybrid learning models in response to the pandemic. The cards may take several weeks to arrive due to the volume of eligible children and shipping time frames.

The Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) oversees the distribution of P-EBT with assistance from the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE). The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) administers the program at the federal level.

Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner said, “Alabama has successfully tackled childhood hunger throughout this pandemic thanks to the P-EBT program and an effective multi-agency partnership. We are extremely grateful to our partners at USDA-FNS and to Dr. Eric Mackey and his team at the Department of Education, along with our advocates, for their continued support of our mission to feed Alabama’s children.”

There is no application for P-EBT; ALSDE has provided DHR with the names of children who participate in the National School Lunch Program, which makes them eligible for P-EBT. This batch of benefits covers school meals missed from August through December 2020. Families will receive separate EBT cards for each eligible child in their households. Recipients should hold onto these cards because additional P-EBT benefits may be added in the future.

Families with children under 6 years old who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also qualify for P-EBT, but their benefits will be issued at a later date.

DHR has created a toll-free customer service hotline at 1-800-410-5827 for questions related to P-EBT. Support specialists are available from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

DHR distributed over $144 million in benefits to more than 460,000 children in Alabama during the first round of P-EBT this past year. Those benefits covered meals missed during the 2019-20 school year due to school closures.