DETROIT – About 810,000 Michigan children whose access to nutritious school meals has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive $741.6 million in assistance benefits that their families can use to pay for food at stores or online.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are announcing that the state has gained federal approval for a second round of Pandemic-EBT benefits.
“The last thing that families should have to worry about during a pandemic is feeding their children,” Gov. Whitmer said. “I am happy that Michigan families will be able to count on this additional support to help them access nutritious meals during the ongoing pandemic. That’s why it’s so important that the legislature passes the COVID recovery plan I put forward that provides an additional $2.1 billion in food assistance as well as the much-needed support for vaccine distribution, small businesses, and getting our kids back in the classroom safely.”
Students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 are eligible if they qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school and in-person learning is not available at their school or is not available on a full-time basis. Pandemic-EBT will provide another way for students who do not have in-person classes to access food – along with Michigan Department of Education (MDE) programs that provide meals to students at mobile and stationary locations.
Families will receive an estimated $127.53 monthly for each eligible child who has no in-person classes and attends a school that is fully virtual and about $77.06 for each eligible child who attends a school with a hybrid schedule of in-person and remote learning. Monthly benefits will vary based on the number of school days in each month.
Benefits are retroactive to September and will be paid through June. Payments will be paid automatically, so families do not need to apply to receive the assistance. Households that already receive food assistance will receive the Pandemic-EBT payments on their Bridge Cards. Families that do not already receive food assistance will receive Pandemic-EBT cards in the mail that they can use to purchase food.
Payments are expected to begin in late March. MDHHS is working in partnership with the MDE to collect information from local school districts that’s needed to issue the benefits.
Last school year, Michigan was the first state in the nation to gain approval of and distribute Pandemic-EBT benefits. New federal rules for approval of Round 2 funding for this school year delayed Michigan’s approval. President Joe Biden’s administration provided increased flexibility that allowed Michigan to be approved, according to the state.
“Throughout the pandemic, MDHHS has been committed to providing easy access to food to families who have been impacted by the pandemic,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “Approval of the second round of Pandemic-EBT payments is the latest example of how we can work with our federal partners to ease the burden on families who are in need.”
The food assistance benefits will go to Michigan families with students ages 5-18 who are enrolled in the MDE program for students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
“With waivers from USDA initiated by MDE, school districts across the state have distributed tens of millions of meals to children in approximately 2,000 mobile and stationary feeding operations since the pandemic began. Children need to be healthy and fed to be able to focus on learning,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “The P-EBT program supplements these school meals and helps enormously to feed our children across the state during this difficult time.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services received authorization from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services to provide the additional food assistance.
Prior to receiving their EBT card, families will receive a letter from MDHHS describing how to use the card, how to set up a PIN and other information about food assistance benefits. The cards can be used much like a debit card for food purchased from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers.
To apply for benefits from the MDHHS, click here.