March 24, 2021
This message was shared for the 2020-21 school year.
TO: Chief Administrators and Primary Contacts for Schools that Participate in the National School Lunch Program
FROM: Vonda Ramp, M.S., R.D., State Director, Child Nutrition Programs
DATE: March 24, 2021
SUBJECT: Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) Issuance for School Year 2020-21
On January 19, 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) issued a memo to National School Lunch Program (NSLP) sponsors announcing funding for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) was extended through September 30, 2021. Through P-EBT, families of eligible school children receive temporary emergency nutrition benefits loaded on EBT cards to purchase food outside of school.
P-EBT for the 2020-21 school year has the same intended purpose as it did in the Spring of 2020; to provide funds on an EBT card for students that did not have access to school meals due to school closures. In the Spring of 2020, all schools were fully closed with no in-person instruction; therefore, all students eligible for free and reduced-price school meals were eligible for P-EBT. However, schools are operating much more diversely now than Spring 2020. This diversity makes assessing which students are eligible for P-EBT more challenging because some students are attending in-person, some are completely virtual (by personal or school choice), some are a mixture of the two, and some students have transitioned between various models of instruction for a variety of reasons such as short-term school closures, quarantine, etc.
In order to capture the wide range of scenarios impacting each student and to distribute the P-EBT benefits during the 2020-21 school year, PDE and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) developed a plan for capturing student information in the most efficient way possible. This plan was approved by the US Department of Agriculture on March 10, 2021. The plan incorporates the use of simplifying assumption that allows Pennsylvania to issue benefits based on generalized categories of student instruction.
P-EBT benefits for the 2020-21 school year are only available to students who meet all three of the following criteria: 1) eligible for free and reduced-price school meals or attend a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school, 2) enrolled in an NSLP school, and 3) receive virtual or remote instruction full or part time (i.e., school closures, virtual/remote instructional days, absences, etc.).
Attached to this memo are a set of Answers to Frequently Asked Questions that provide detailed information regarding P-EBT and the role of schools, as well as a data collection template inclusive of a data dictionary that describes each field.
Using the school’s Student Information System (SIS) and Student Eligibility System (SES), schools must complete all fields on the data collection template, listing all currently enrolled students regardless of NSLP eligibility or mode of instruction.
Completion of the data collection template may involve coordination from a number of different individuals and technology systems within the school, which will most likely be beyond the scope and capacity of the school nutrition program operator. PDE asks that Chief Administrators divert the necessary support and resources to ensure the data is collected accurately and timely.
The data collection template must be completed and submitted twice. The first data collection template will capture student information for the months of September 2020 through February 2021 and is due by April 24, 2021. The second data collection template will capture information for the months of March 2021 through May 2021 and is due by July 2, 2021. Data must be provided for every enrolled student, regardless of eligibility, on both the first and second data collection templates. DHS will determine if the student is eligible for P-EBT benefits and the amount.
Schools must ensure accurate completion of the data template and timely submissions for both the first and second templates. Schools must also ensure the mailing address on file in the school’s Student Information System (SIS) for the primary parent/guardian is current and accurate. Data errors may delay benefits being sent to families in a timely manner. If a school does not submit the template on time, the students will not be considered eligible for P-EBT for that stage of benefits.
All schools (including residential childcare institutions) that have an agreement with PDE to participate in the NSLP must complete and submit the data collection template even if they are not currently serving meals through the NSLP because they have paused meal service, are serving meals through the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option, or do not believe they have students eligible for P-EBT. As stated above, DHS will determine if students are eligible to receive P-EBT based on the data submitted.
The Center for Schools and Communities (CSC), Intermediate Unit (IU) 16, will serve as the point of contact for all school data collection efforts on behalf of DHS and PDE. School files will be uploaded to the CSC using a secure data transmission.
Webinars providing detailed information will be announced in the upcoming days via email to the Primary Contact and Chief Administrator as identified in PEARS. The webinar details should be extended to those who will be directly involved in the data collection. Each webinar is limited to 500 participants.
Thank you for your continued support and assistance during these unprecedented times. PDE and DHS remain committed to ensuring that all families have access to as much financial assistance as possible.