The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) and Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), which provides assistance to families of children eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) whose school’s predominant learning mode was either virtual or hybrid. This will be the second year Mississippi has participated in the program.
In a news release, the agencies explained that no application is needed in an effort to prevent an additional burden on Mississippi families. Benefits will be issued to families with children receiving free and reduced-price meals at the address provided by the Mississippi Department of Education. Upon approval, MDE will collect the data on all children eligible for NSLP and provide that list of names and addresses to MDHS. MDHS will in turn provide that information to Conduent, LLC, the current EBT vendor for MDHS, who will disburse the benefits on separate Pandemic-EBT cards. Current SNAP recipients will not receive benefits on their current SNAP EBT cards.
According to the plan approved by FNS, Mississippi will be able to operate P-EBT, a food purchasing benefit to all eligible households, to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school during the period between October 2020 and May 2021. Three factors are considered to determine eligibility:
- Was the school closed, have reduced attendance or hours, for at least 5 consecutive days?
- Each school would have had to have been in a virtual or hybrid learning mode for at least 51 percent of the month to be eligible.
- Children in a school with less than 51 percent in a virtual and/or hybrid learning mode will not be issued any benefits, regardless of their eligibility for the free or reduced-price meals program.
“This benefit is part of our ongoing commitment to provide support to Mississippi families and children whose normal learning environment was disrupted by the pandemic,” MDHS Executive Director Robert G. “Bob” Anderson said. “The Mississippi Department of Human Services will use all resources available to keep Mississippians safe, secure, and healthy and to keep children fed while schools are not in a normal session.”
The timeline for first issuance is subject to when all student information files are received by MDE from the school district and delivered to MDHS. MDHS will provide the files to Conduent who will establish the database and then issue the cards. The date for first issuance will be released at that time. Since all payments are being issued retroactively, both MDE and MDHS are ensuring benefits are only given to eligible children who have not been attending school in person for the month(s) in question.