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P-EBT Cards Mailed To Ohio Students Who Receive Free School Lunches

Families who receive this card have 12 months to spend it. [Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services]
Families who receive this card have 12 months to spend it. [Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services]

Parents of K-12 students in Ohio who receive free or reduced school meals will soon see a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer – or P-EBT – card in the mail.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is sending the P-EBT cards to make up for the 53 days of school breakfasts and lunches students missed out on when the state’s public schools went virtual in March.

Families will receive one card for every student in the free meals program. Each card will have $302 or $231, depending on when the student enrolled in the program.

The cards can only be used to buy groceries through SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Federally funded P-EBT programs are currently running in more than 20 other states and the Center for Community Solutions advocated for bringing it to Ohio.

“There are so many children who face food insecurity and that need is met at school,” said Emily Muttillo, a research fellow at the Center for Community Solutions. “It’s just a really, really helpful tool for Ohio children.”

Families already enrolled and using SNAP will have the funds loaded onto their existing EBT cards.

In some school districts, like Cleveland Metropolitan Schools, all students automatically get free lunches, so every student will get a card.

The money is non-transferrable, but what happens to the groceries after they are purchased is up to the family.

Dani Carlson, the Center for Community Solutions director of communications and digital strategy, suggested on Twitter that families getting an unexpected P-EBT could donate the groceries they purchase.

The P-EBT funds must be spent by June 2021. Unused money on the cards will will go back to the state.

To activate a card, call the number on the back of the card and follow the prompts.

One important note when activating: because of a clerical error, one of the prompts will ask for the last four digits of the child’s Social Security number. Instead, enter the four digits of the year the child was born.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.