One of the unforeseen circumstances of school closures due to COVID-19, was thousands of children missing out on their free or reduced price school meals during the school day. Now with talk of another possible federal stimulus package possibly in the works, the Iowa Department of Human Services has announced a program that will greatly benefit many Iowa families.

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program comes along just in time as many families are still struggling to make ends meet. Iowa DHS explains that the "Families First CoronaVirus Act" allows states to issue food assistance benefits to households with children in Pre-K through 12th grade. This stipend is meant to offset the cost to those families that lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. Basically, they're taking all of that money allotted for mid-March through the end of May, and dividing it among qualifying families. If you do the math, that comes out to $307.80 PER CHILD.

Any child who was an enrolled Pre-K through 12th grade in either a public school or non-public school that participates in the National School Lunch Program and received free and reduced price school meals as of March 16, 2020 is eligible. This includes all of the Waterloo Community School district along with many other schools in the Cedar Valley. For a list of 2020 qualified schools click here.

As the Iowa DHS's FAQ page describes it:

If you currently receive, or have received Food Assistance/SNAP benefits since April, you will receive $307.80 for each eligible child on your regular EBT card on Wednesday, July 15th. For children in Pre-K through 12th grade who receive Free and Reduced Price School Meals, but do not receive Food Assistance/SNAP benefits...a special P-EBT card will be mailed to them and should be received between Tuesday, July 14th and Tuesday, July 21st with instructions on how to use the card.

The cards will look like junk mail, with a return address from Austin, TX, so don't mess up and throw away your debit card like many Iowans that threw away their stimulus checks. Here's what the cards will look like:

Courtesy - Iowa Dept of Human Services

If you're wondering what you can buy with the P-EBT Card, you can purchase household food items such as fruits, meats/poultry/fish, dairy, and breads. P-EBT benefits can be used wherever Food Assistance/SNAP food benefits are accepted.

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