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Pandemic food security program approved for 810,000 Michigan children

February 8, 2021
East Lansing High School on Aug. 1, 2020.
East Lansing High School on Aug. 1, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Families that relied on free or reduced-price school lunches to feed their children will now receive aid to do so.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced Feb. 5 that the state has gained federal approval for the second round of Pandemic-EBT benefits.

“The last thing that families should have to worry about during a pandemic is feeding their children," Whitmer said in a press release. “I am happy that Michigan families will be able to count on this additional support to help them access nutritious meals during the ongoing pandemic."

Approximately 810,000 children rely on school meals through the National School Lunch Program. These students are eligible for aid if in-person learning is not available at their school, or if their school is in a hybrid format. In the 2019-2020 school year, 33.9% of East Lansing Public School attendees were economically disadvantaged, according to MI School Data.

The $741.6 million in aid will be distributed to families through automatic payments on their Bridge Cards. If a family qualifies but does not have a Bridge Card, a Pandemic-EBT card will be sent in the mail. No application is necessary as MDHHS is working to collect information from local school districts in order to issue the benefits.

Payments will follow an estimated guideline of $127.53 monthly for each eligible child with no in-person classes and $77.06 monthly for each child with a hybrid schedule. The payments, dating back to the beginning of the school year, are expected to begin in late March and will be paid through June.

Prior to receiving their EBT card, families will receive a letter from MDHHS describing how to use the card, how to set up a PIN and other information about food assistance benefits. The cards can be used much like a debit card for food purchased from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers. 

A list of eligible retailers can be found on the SNAP Retailers website. Families can also use their benefits online to purchase food from Amazon, Walmart or Aldi.

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