1M Illinois schoolchildren to receive loaded debit cards for monthly food assistance through expanded P-EBT program

Every CPS student qualifies to get $450 this month
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The families of a million public school K-12 students in Illinois will be getting a very important card in the mail the next few weeks.

It will be loaded with money to help with food insecurity brought about by the pandemic.

As in-person learning resumes for more CPS students, things are still far from back to normal for many of their families.

"There are a lot of families struggling right now with kids not having access to meals at school unfortunately there are a lot of kids are going hungry," said Claudia Rodriguez, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Senior Manager of Public Benefits Outreach

The State of Illinois received federal money to offer more relief to more children - 1 million children.

Students will receive the funds through their school districts.

Children that qualify for free meals qualify for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, so students in any school across the state could qualify.

In some cases the whole district qualifies, so in more than 200 school districts all students qualify for P-EBT.

All Chicago Public Schools students are eligible for P-EBT, according to officials, and so all students will get $450 for the time schools were remote learning in the fall. The money will be loaded on a reusable Illinois EBT/Link card, and purchases are restricted to SNAP-eligible items.

"They can take this card and they can purchase food at retail and grocery stores across the state so please do not throw those cards away," said Grace Hou, Illinois Dept. of Human Services, Secretary

State officials urge families to make sure their child's school has the most current address and watch for the white envelope in the mail with the card.

"If they came to school pre pandemic expecting or needing breakfast and lunch when that went away there was a significant rise in the need to replace those meals," said Hou.

"We think about adults going hungry who may be homeless or under employed but there are a lot of families with children that are struggling," said Rodriguez.

The cards will start going out next week.

Qualified students who have been remote this year will be entitled to more funds that would be automatically loaded onto their cards.

Full letter from CPS to parents:

Dear CPS Families,

"As part of the U.S. government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all CPS students are now eligible for food benefits as a result of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT). Through P-EBT, eligible school children receive temporary emergency nutrition benefits in the form of funds loaded on an EBT card that can be used like a debit card to purchase food at any grocery store that accepts Link cards.

"All CPS students, regardless of income or citizenship status, are eligible for P-EBT. Families will receive P-EBT cards automatically and do not need to complete an application. Each child will receive their own card mailed to their primary address in Aspen. Please ensure your address is up to date in order to receive this benefit.

"Cards will be mailed in March and should arrive in an unmarked envelope. Families should keep their P-EBT card because future benefits will continue to be loaded onto the same card.

"For additional information on this program, please view the FAQs, call the Healthy CPS Hotline at 773-553-KIDS or complete the Healthy CPS Encounter form."
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