School Year 2020–21 Pandemic EBT
The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and the California Department of Education (CDE) are excited to announce that Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) has been extended through the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act. This law extends P-EBT benefits through September 2021.
To provide P-EBT benefits for School Year (SY) 2020–21, the CDE and CDSS must submit a new P-EBT plan for approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and are working collaboratively to develop and submit a plan for approval by the end of this month.
P-EBT: August–September 2020
P-EBT benefits for the first two months of SY 2020–21 (August and September) were sent to students who previously received P-EBT benefits in 2019–20 and were enrolled in a school participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs in 2020−21. Many students eligible for free or reduced-price (F/RP) meals did not receive benefits because their enrollments had not yet been updated by local educational agencies (LEA) in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) when the data was used to determine benefits. The CDE will identify any students that were missed in the first distribution and include those benefits in subsequent distributions.
In the meantime, LEAs should inform families that the next round of 2020−21 P-EBT benefits (October and subsequent months) are anticipated to be distributed beginning in mid-March 2021 through mid-June 2021. Benefits will include any missed August and September 2020 benefits not received. Families that require assistance with existing P-EBT cards can call the P-EBT Customer Service Center at 877-328-9677.
2020-21 P-EBT: October 2020–June 2021
For the remaining months of SY 2020−21 (October 2020–June 2021), LEAs will play a larger role in administering the P-EBT program. Previously, LEAs did not have direct responsibilities in administering the program other than maintain student enrollment and specified program data in CALPADS. To support this role, the CDSS and CDE are requesting local assistance funds in the 2020-21 P-EBT State Plan. The State Plan and local assistance funds are subject to USDA approval. Examples of the LEA administrative activities include the following:
- Ensuring enrollment and eligibility information are up-to-date in CALPADS: In order to be eligible for P-EBT benefits, a student must be enrolled at a school participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program and be eligible during SY 2020-21 for F/RP meals based on: (1) an approved F/RP meal application or Alternative Household Income Form, (2) participation in a benefits program (CalFresh, CalWORKs, Medi-Cal) as identified through direct certification, or (3) a status of homeless, migrant, or foster. It should also be noted that all students enrolled at schools operating school meals programs under a Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2 or 3 are eligible for P-EBT regardless of whether they are individually F/RP meal eligible. Therefore, throughout the year, it is important that LEAs keep the following data up-to-date in CALPADS:
- Student enrollments and exits, especially enrollments in provision schools
- F/RP meal program records
- Migrant, homeless, and foster records
- Ensuring student mailing addresses are up-to-date in CALPADS: In the previous two rounds of P-EBT, all students (with the exception of students receiving benefits from CalFresh) were required to apply for the program. If the students were found eligible based on CALPADS data, they were mailed P-EBT benefit cards to the address provided on the application. This year no application process is required, and eligible students will be mailed P-EBT benefit cards based on their address in CALPADS. Therefore, it is critical that student addresses in CALPADS are kept up-to-date throughout the year.
- Providing general communication to families about the program: To support LEAs in their efforts to get updated student addresses, the CDE and CDSS will develop general communications about the program that LEAs can use to communicate with families. This information will include P-EBT Help Desk contact information for families to call for questions about their benefits.
- Providing for the distribution of P-EBT benefit cards to homeless students: For 2020−21 P-EBT, LEAs will assist in the distribution of P-EBT benefit cards to homeless students who do not have an address to receive mail. In preparation for the distribution to homeless, the student addresses in CALPADS must have value. For example, LEAs may decide to distribute cards at each school, or centralize distribution at a district location. If an LEA distributes cards from the school site, the LEA should populate homeless student addresses with the address of the school site. Alternatively, if an LEA distributes cards from a central district location, they should populate homeless student addresses with a district address. Homeless student addresses left blank will be sent to the LEA’s mailing address maintained in the CDE’s Online Public Update for Schools (known as OPUS) system, for distribution to homeless students. Card distribution will also require LEAs to communicate to the parents or guardians of homeless students about when their benefit cards arrive in the mail, and how to receive benefit cards from the LEA.
- Responding to meal survey on participating schools: For nonfoster students to be eligible for benefits, students must be enrolled in a school participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program. Some students who are participating in the program access their meals at a site other than the school where they are enrolled. Since the schools where these students are enrolled do not provide meals, they are not in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) and therefore appear not to be a participating school. In order to identify these schools so that enrolled students can be deemed eligible, LEAs will receive a survey in the next few weeks to gather this information.
Pending USDA approval, the anticipated timeline is to begin sending P-EBT cards to families in mid-March 2021. This will require the CDE to begin pulling data from CALPADS in late February. Therefore, LEAs should (1) strive to update student data in CALPADS during the next four to six weeks, and (2) have a plan for distributing P-EBT cards to homeless students in place by mid-March. The CDE will keep LEAs informed as the timeline is solidified.
Once approval of the 2020−21 P-EBT plan is received from the USDA, the CDE will provide LEAs information on the administrative funding that will be available, as well as further program details. In the meantime, it is important for LEAs to update CALPADS, particularly student addresses, develop a strategy for distributing benefit cards to homeless students, and respond to the participating school survey.
Thank you in advance for your efforts. The P-EBT program provides an important source of funding for California’s most vulnerable students. For more information about P-EBT, you may visit the CDSS P-EBT web page .