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Michigan is the first state to provide meals to families affected by COVID-19 school closures

Families with children who qualify for free or reduced lunches will qualify for the new program.

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan is the first state to receive federal approval for a program that will provide food to children affected by school closings due to COVID-19.

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) provides temporary funding to address emergency food needs and avert financial hardship for families affected by the pandemic.

Benefits will go to Michigan families with students ages 5-18 who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. The program is estimated to reach almost 900 thousand students. Including families that are currently receiving Food Assistance Program benefits and those not receiving benefits.

The additional benefits will fortify and supplement the important efforts that local school districts will continue to implement by providing meals to children at over 2,000 stationary locations and almost 700 mobile sites throughout the state.

“I am proud that Michigan is the first state to receive federal approval for this program to put healthy food on the table for families that need them,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Whitmer also said,“The spread of COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our state. My administration will continue to work around the clock to help Michiganders through this difficult time and slow the spread of this virus.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) received authorization from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services to provide the additional food assistance.

“Children should never go hungry. Yet because of COVID-19, it is a risk unlike at any time in generations,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. 

Gordon also said,“I am glad that Michigan will be the first state to deliver SNAP benefits to families that previously received free or reduced-price lunches, whether or not they were SNAP-eligible. In a time of terrible need, it will be a small, good thing for nearly a million Michigan children.” 

RELATED: Here's a list of places to find food for students while schools are closed

Eligible families not currently receiving food assistance benefits will receive in the mail a pre-loaded Electronic Benefits Transaction (EBT) card – known as a Bridge Card – issued under the name of the oldest student in the household.

The amount of EBT benefits will be no less than the total amount of free or reduced-cost school lunch benefits that the family would have received during the time that school is closed. 

The benefits will include $193.80 per eligible student to cover the months of March and April and an additional $182.40 per student to cover May and June combined.

Benefits for all eligible school-aged children in the home will be loaded onto this one EBT card. 

Prior to receiving the card, families will get a letter from MDHHS describing how to use their EBT card, how to set up their PIN, and other pertinent information about food assistance benefits. EBT cards can be used much like a debit card for food items only purchased in-person at SNAP retailers

Families who are not already receiving food assistance benefits should start receiving MDHHS notices in the mail late next week, with the EBT cards arriving by the first week of May.

Eligible families currently receiving food assistance benefits will be issued a supplement to their existing benefits. 

Supplemental benefits can be used as families would typically use their EBT card. Families who already receive food assistance benefits should begin receiving their additional benefits next week – with the payments being staggered over a 10-day period.

Families can use their pre-loaded EBT cards at any retailer that accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT benefits. 

For more information about the program's benefits and to find a list of SNAP retailers, visit the SNAP Retailers website.

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