Recent Rate Increase Changes the Benefit Schedule for January Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) Benefits

Published on Saturday, February 13, 2021

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) granted Rhode Island approval to again issue Pandemic-EBT benefits (P-EBT) to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and non-SNAP households with one or more school-age children who receive free and reduced-price meals at school through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), but were unable to receive those meals at school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are entitled to this benefit if the school is closed or has been operating with reduced attendance or hours for at least 5 consecutive days in the current school year.

We were among the first three States to resume P-EBT.

Rhode Island was the first state in the country to issue P-EBT in the spring of 2020 and one of only 20 states to issue P-EBT benefits for August and September of 2020. More than 80,500 students – 53,000 of whom lived in non-SNAP households – received the benefits then.

"Even before the pandemic, we knew the benefits and services DHS provides are critical for thousands of Rhode Islanders," said DHS Director Courtney E. Hawkins. "We were relentless with our advocacy for all, and our staff worked hard and quickly. The end result is our State is again among the first in the country to give out P-EBT."

In October 2020, Congress authorized P-EBT benefits to continue for the 2020 through 2021 school year but made changes to the criteria to get these benefits. States then needed to wait for additional guidance from the federal government before resuming. Once the guidance was received on November 16, 2020, States worked to put complex implementation plans together, and the plans needed another approval from FNS before starting up again. DHS received its approval in late December 2020.

An average of 42,895 school-age children from SNAP and non-SNAP families received retroactive P-EBT benefits for October, November and December 2020 in January 2021. We are working as quickly as possible with the RI Department of Education (RIDE) and schools to issue payments to additional children who may not have been on the initial monthly lists given to the Department, but it could take four to six weeks to resolve.

The P-EBT benefit rates for the 2020 – 2021 school year was recently increased by the federal government. To reflect the new rates, P-EBT benefits for January 2021 is now anticipated to be given out during the third week in February, which is a slight delay from what the Department previously planned. It may be come as early as Sunday, February 14th, 2021.

The new P-EBT rate is $75.02 per month for all students in a hybrid learning schedule (such as some days virtual and some in-person). If a student is learning virtually every day of the week, the new rate is $6.82 per day for each day that school is in session each month based on RI's school calendar. We urge families to contact the United Way of Rhode Island's 2-1-1 team if they have not received January P-EBT benefit by February 19, 2021 – or for any additional P-EBT matter.

Also during the third week of February, on or about February 19th, we plan to give a supplement payment to those eligible children who already received P-EBT retroactively for October, November and December 2020. That is also due to the change in rates. Therefore, some families may receive two payments during that week – one for January P-EBT benefits and one as a supplement to the retroactive benefits families already received in the late January.

Please note future P-EBT payments will be issued with the new rates during the second week of each month for the previous month. For example, benefits for February 2021 will be issued by on or before March 13, 2021.

Department of Human Services (DHS) continues to work with RIDE to receive monthly student information from the schools. It is possible a household could receive different amounts if there are multiple eligible school-age children based on the learning model for that child, and that the amounts may change from month to month based on the child's learning schedule. Benefits will either be placed on the student's current P-EBT card or SNAP EBT card. If a student is newly eligible and is not receiving SNAP benefits, a P-EBT card will be mailed to the student at the address on file with the school. If a household no longer has their P-EBT card from the Spring or Fall of 2020, they should call 1-888-979-9939 to request a new card.

Households can also check on their balance by calling 1-888-979-9939.

Responses to frequently asked questions are posted on the Department's P-EBT page (link below). They are updated as needed.