The Georgia Division of Family & Children Services (DFCS) partnered with the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) to provide food benefits to families with children who receive free or reduced school lunch. The Family First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 allows the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to facilitate the distribution of the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) to eligible students statewide.
Recently, both DFCS and GaDOE, under the recently approved P-EBT plan, issued funds to eligible families to offset additional food costs caused by the pandemic. The temporary funding includes a one-time allotment of $256.50 per eligible child and is intended to prevent food insecurity for families across Georgia. P-EBT assistance was issued to families who currently receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits as well as to those not currently receiving SNAP. This supplement will aid more than 1.1M Georgia students who are eligible for free or reduced school lunch (based on enrollment data provided by Ga DOE).
COVID-19 related school closures impacted students’ ability to receive school-based meals. Since that time, the GaDOE has assisted families by providing over 28.4 million free meals through the National School Meal Program for children 18 years and under. Meals were also delivered at bus stops across the state for children that could not get to the school locations to pick up the meals.
DFCS has already released $324,804,924 in Pandemic SNAP (P-SNAP) – an additional benefit reserved only for families currently receiving SNAP – in the previous months of March, April, May and June. July P-SNAP was also issued at the end of the month in addition to P-EBT.
“We know food insecurity for students who rely on school meals during school closures is a major concern,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “This partnership with DFCS is part of our efforts to ensure Georgia’s children are fed, safe, and healthy during the pandemic.”
Families who currently receive SNAP may not need to apply for P-EBT benefits. Eligible SNAP recipients will automatically receive the P-EBT benefits loaded onto their existing EBT cards if their child was enrolled in the free and reduce meals program during the 2019-2020 school year. Every attempt will be made to match the SNAP child exactly with DOE records. For any children that do not receive a benefit, the parent should verify student information through the GA DOE Student Portal and submit an online application at dfcs.georgia.gov/pandemic-electronic-benefit-transfer.
Constituents who do not currently receive SNAP but have children who are eligible to receive free or reduced meals as of March 2020 can apply for P-EBT benefits using the dedicated online portal available on the DFCS agency website mentioned above.
The application launches online today, and eligible families can use the student’s Student Testing ID (GTID) number of each eligible child in their household to complete the application process. Parents who do not have their child’s GTID may check the Georgia Student Portal, report cards, other school-related materials or contact their local school district for this information. Approved applicants will receive an EBT card within three (3) to four (4) weeks of approval. Families will receive information explaining card usage and activation procedures.
“Food is more than sustenance. It symbolizes care. My family is so appreciative of the care shown to us during this time of uncertainty,” said Linnea Lindstrom, a parent living in the Savannah, Georgia area. The allotment amounts issued to families are based on the number of children in the household who are eligible for free or reduced lunch. The benefit amount was determined by a federal equation that factored in the number of pandemic-related school closure days in Georgia for the months of March, April and May 2020.
“Both organizations care deeply about and typically support the same children and families throughout Georgia. We thought it was important to take these tangible steps together in even greater support as communities are under unprecedented hardship,” DFCS Director Tom Rawlings said. “We greatly appreciate the guidance and support of the USDA, Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) throughout the review and approval of the P-EBT plan.”
Families can use their pre-loaded EBT cards at approved EBT grocery retailers and outlets to purchase food items. P-EBT benefits are entirely federally funded at no cost to families participating in the program.
Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP), a statewide network dedicated to the health and well-being of families, is committed to supporting this effort. They will work closely with DFCS and GaDOE to make this resource available in communities across Georgia by communicating with local partners in all 159 Georgia counties.