As the school year starts across Georgia, many students are finding themselves attending school virtually, rather than in person. Whether that was the plan all along or a response to infection rates, virtual learning poses serious challenges for everyone—including, unfortunately, hunger. For families on a limited income, free or reduced-cost school meals are an important source of nutrition.
Fortunately, the state of Georgia is making sure that those students have access to square meals, even if their school cafeterias are closed. The Georgia Department of Family and Children Services is currently taking applications for a food benefit that provides a one-time allotment of $256.50 per child. Funded by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the P-EBT program (the “P” is for “pandemic”) is open to an estimated 1.1 million Georgia families—but to claim it, families that are not already enrolled must apply by September 25.
In fact, some families may be enrolled automatically. According to DFCS, the agency will match its records of families receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with records from the Georgia Department of Education. Those students who match exactly may be automatically enrolled in P-EBT, and may find the $256.50 automatically loaded onto their SNAP cards.
Those who are not an exact match, or who are not SNAP families, can still apply for P-EBT benefits, as long as they are attending a Georgia public school (including charter schools and private schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program), and would normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school. DFCS says students are eligible even if they receive free meals through the Community Eligible Provision program, which provides free meals to everyone at a certain school. The benefits do not need to be paid back and they do not replace other benefits the family may receive.
Importantly, the DFCS website says the program is also available to children who don’t have legal status in the United States. In addition, DFCS says participating in the P-EBT program does not affect the family’s eligibility for a green card or other adjustment of immigration status.
Es importante destacar que el sitio web de DFCS dice que el programa también está disponible para niños indocumentados. Además, DFCS dice que participar en el programa P-EBT no afecta la elegibilidad de la familia para una tarjeta verde u otro ajuste de estatus migratorio. Para más información, por favor vea a las Preguntas Frecuentes en español en el sitio web de DFCS. Traducción está disponsible si llama al 1-877-423-4746.
To apply, parents and guardians need the student’s Georgia Testing ID Number, which they should find in their school or district’s parent portal. The application is short and is completed online. Deaf families and those who need interpretation in a language other than English can call 1-877-423-4746 for help.
DFCS says that families who are not already receiving SNAP can expect to wait three to four weeks for their P-EBT cards, and applications are processed in the order they’re received. For this reason—and because the deadline is September 25—it’s important for families who want to claim this benefit to start their applications as soon as possible. This school year will provide challenges to everyone—but hunger shouldn’t be one of them.
With four offices across Metro Atlanta, Scholle Law represents Georgians who have been seriously hurt by someone else’s carelessness. If you’d like to talk to us about securing fair compensation for your injuries, contact us online or call us today at (678) 921-3320