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Health, Science & Environment

Pandemic food benefit program for students coming to an end, but families still have time to apply

Ohio P-EBT Card.png
Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services
This is the P-EBT card families received in 2020.

The current school year is almost over, but students who homeschool or still attend class virtually due to COVID-19 concerns can still take advantage of Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfers, or P-EBT. But time is running out.

Eligible families can apply for P-EBT for the 2022-2023 school year until May 31. Any approved applications will be paid out retroactively from August 2022. Ohio’s P-EBT program will come to a close at the end of this current school year.

P-EBT was created in 2020 to help cover the grocery costs of families in the state’s free or reduced-cost school meals program when schools closed and students were forced into virtual learning from home.

The P-EBT program was handled by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services with federal funding.

“Children who are otherwise eligible for free and reduced lunch in school didn’t have access to those kinds of programs, so a short-term pandemic supplemental food program was necessary to impact child hunger,” said Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder.

Families that were eligible for free or reduced school lunches, which is a benefit provided to all Cleveland Metropolitan School District students, were able to use the P-EBT to buy groceries through SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps).

Three years later, P-EBT is limited to students who homeschool or attend virtual classrooms because of COVID-19 concerns.

“Now the schools are back open, there’s a vaccine and all of those kinds of things, Congress has decided to end the pandemic portion of this program and other programs as well,” Damschroder said. “I think on one hand, from a public health standpoint, that’s a very good sign.”

More often than not, these students previously attended “brick and mortar” schools or in-person school and received free or reduced-cost lunch in those schools, but the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services application process will determine eligibility.

Many states participated in the P-EBT program since 2020. Several other states and US territories will continue with P-EBT programs past this current school year.

While P-EBT ends in Ohio when the current school year ends, the free and reduced-cost lunch program remains.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.