The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently granted Rhode Island approval to again issue Pandemic-EBT benefits (P-EBT) to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and non-SNAP households with one or more school-age children who receive free and reduced-price meals at school through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), but were unable to receive those meals at school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are entitled to this benefit if the school is closed or has been operating with reduced attendance or hours for at least 5 consecutive days in the current school year.
As of January 11th, only two other States received P-EBT approval -- Massachusetts and Indiana.
Rhode Island was the first state in the country to issue P-EBT in the spring of 2020 and one of only 20 states to issue P-EBT benefits for August and September of 2020. More than 80,500 students – 53,000 of whom lived in non-SNAP households – received the benefits then.
"Even before the pandemic, we knew the benefits and services DHS provides are critical for thousands of Rhode Islanders," said DHS Director Courtney E. Hawkins. "We were relentless with our advocacy for all, and our staff worked hard and quickly. The end result is our State is again among the first in the country to give out P-EBT."
In October 2020, Congress authorized P-EBT benefits to continue for the 2020 through 2021 school year but made changes to the criteria to get these benefits. States then needed to wait for additional guidance from the federal government before resuming. Once the guidance was received on November 16, 2020, States worked to put complex implementation plans together, and the plans needed another approval from FNS before starting up again. DHS received its approval in late December 2020.
The P-EBT benefit for the 2020 – 2021 school year is $64.46 per month for all students in a hybrid learning schedule (such as some days virtual and some in-person). If a student is learning virtually every day of the week, they will receive $5.86 per day for each day that school is in session each month based on RI's school calendar.
Therefore, it is possible a household could receive different amounts if there are multiple eligible school-age children based on the learning model for that child. P-EBT will be issued retroactively for the months of October, November and December of 2020 by the end of this month: January 2021. Starting in February 2021, benefits will be issued during the second week of each month for the previous month. For example, benefits for January 2021 will be issued by on or before February 13, 2021.
DHS is working with the RI Department of Education (RIDE) to receive student information from the schools. Benefits will either be placed on the student's current P-EBT card or SNAP EBT card. If a student is newly eligible and is not receiving SNAP benefits, a P-EBT card will be mailed to the student at the address on file with the school. If a household no longer has their P-EBT card from the Spring or Fall of 2020, they should call 1-888-979-9939 to request a new card.
The United Way of Rhode Island's 2-1-1 team are again assisting with answering questions and directing customer to resources. Households can also check on their balance by calling 1-888-979-9939.
A mailer in English, Spanish and Portuguese will be sent to all eligible families soon. The mailer and responses to frequently asked questions will also be posted on the Department's website - SNAP Customer Resources Page (link below). We have also added information to our Facebook and Twitter pages and asked our community partners and sister agencies to share widely.