New York children who missed out of free school lunches due to COVID can now qualify for some back pay

toMEAT cropped
School lunch on May 12, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz

New York City families will now be able to get $132 a month in food benefits per child for each month enrolled in full remote learning, and an additional $82 a month for every month they participated in blended learning. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this week that $2.2 billion in federal food assistance will be available for children across the state who could not access free school means due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“For many families across the state, free school meals provide a critical stop-gap and the ongoing pandemic has only made it harder for those already grappling with food insecurity,” Cuomo said in statement. “This funding will help school children throughout our state access critical food assistance at a time when so many families are trying to make ends meet.”   

The fund, called the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, is available to all students who would qualify for free school lunches include those at private, pre-k, parochial and charter schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program. 

The amount of money students will get is dependent on the number of days their schools closed due to the pandemic or the number of days in-person classes were reduced or canceled due to the virus, according to the New York state website.

Kids who had their in-person attendance cut by 1 to 12 days a month are eligible to receive $82 in benefits while children whose schools reported that in-person school attendance was lowered by more than 12 days in a month can receive $132 in benefits for that month. 

“This is good news for kids across New York,” said No Kid Hungry New York Executive Director Rachel Sabella. “An additional grocery benefit during the summer is an effective way to make sure kids get more of the food they need when school is out.”

Students will receive the funds in two installments with first payments scheduled to start this month and continue until the end of July to cover owed food benefits from Sept. 2020 to March of this year. Second payments will begin by the end of September and will include P-EBT food benefits for owed for every month between April and June of 2021. 

Students who received P-EBT funds last school year will receive funds to the same P-EBT Food Benefit Card and children who are already get SNAP benefits or Temporary Assistance will have their P-EBT funds sent to the family’s EBT card.

Children who have Medicaid coverage and were able to access P-EBT funds through their New York state Medicaid card will be able to do so this year while students who are eligible for P-EBT benefits for the first time this year and  do not have a SNAP card will be sent a P-EBT card in the mail along with instructions on how to activate it. 

Families do not need to use their children’s P-EBT benefits right away. Funds will remain on either available via a NYS Medicaid or P-EBT card for 274 days, roughly nine months, after the first round of benefits are released.