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Maryland to receive $49 million in federal funding to offset cost of student meals while schools are closed

Low-income families in Maryland will receive a combined $49 million in additional funding to offset the cost of meals their children would otherwise be served for free or at a discounted price at school, officials announced Wednesday.

Maryland joins a dozen other states approved to participate in the federal government’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, a monthly benefit that will provide $5.70 per child per day to needy families while schools are closed due to the coronavirus.

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The families of about 427,000 low-income children in Maryland — nearly half of the state’s students — are eligible for P-EBT money, according to the state education and human services officials.

The additional funding "will dramatically help maximize the nutritional well-being of children in Maryland,” Schools Superintendent Karen B. Salmon said in a statement.

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"While local school districts and agencies are distributing meals at over 600 emergency sites across the State, this additional P-EBT benefit will help sustain students and their families through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis,” Salmon said.

Households already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) will receive the additional money — including retroactive payments for March, April and May — on their EBT cards beginning in June, according to the state Department of Human Services.

The P-EBT benefits “will continue to be issued for the duration that schools are closed due to COVID-19,” the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the state human services department.

Any SNAP recipients who have lost their EBT card may call the Maryland EBT Customer Call Center at 1-800-997-2222 to have a replacement card issued.

Maryland is mailing letters to non-SNAP families who are eligible for P-EBT funding with a pre-populated form for them to sign and return, confirming they would like to participate, officials said.

“The Pandemic-EBT program offers Maryland an opportunity to provide additional nutritional resources to families who are losing access to free or reduced-price school meals as schools across the country close in response to COVID-19,” said Netsanet Kibret, Executive Director of the state’s Family Investment Administration.

It’s among a number of steps the state has taken to make sure families are fed during the global pandemic.

Maryland has been approved to distribute 1 million pounds of food to jurisdictions hit hardest by COVID-19 in a Disaster Household Distribution Program. The state has asked the federal government to expedite the capability of Maryland food retailers to accept online payments via SNAP.

The state and federal governments have relaxed some SNAP regulations, such as work requirements, and Maryland plans to provide more than $66 million in additional SNAP benefits to more than 319,000 households in response to the coronavirus, the state Department of Human Services announced earlier this month.

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