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Massachusetts extending Pandemic EBT benefits, ALDI market added to online SNAP

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BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration Thursday received federal approval to issue Pandemic EBT benefits (P-EBT) for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year. P-EBT promotes increased food security for families who participate in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch Program (NSLP), covering the cost of missed school meals for more than 500,000 students in remote or hybrid learning environments.

Eligible households will receive the next round of P-EBT benefits by the end of December 2020. The benefits cover school meals missed during the months of October and November, and households will receive benefits monthly through the end of the 2020-2021 school year. The Department of Transitional Assistance estimates P-EBT will bring $40 to $60 million per month in federal dollars into the Commonwealth’s economy.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity, especially for children who receive nutrition support in school settings. This remains a significant challenge for many families throughout the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services and COVID-19 Command Center Director Marylou Sudders. “Massachusetts continues to maximize every opportunity to tackle food insecurity across the state. The rapid approval of our plan to issue P-EBT through the end of the school year provide relief to hundreds of thousands of families across the state for many months as we continue to navigate this public health crisis.”

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act established the option for states to establish program P-EBT. Massachusetts initially launched its P-EBT program in April 2020 to help students and their families buy healthy food while schools were closed from March through June due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was one of a limited number of states to receive federal approval for September P-EBT benefits. To date, P-EBT has brought more than $253 million in federal dollars into the Commonwealth, supporting families across the state and local grocery retailers. The Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021 extended P-EBT through the entire 2020-2021 school year.

P-EBT is jointly administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in collaboration with local school districts. Families with eligible students are expected to begin receiving P-EBT benefits to cover October and November school days, by the end of the year.

“P-EBT has proven to be an effective tool during the COVID-19 pandemic to help families with students learning at home directly purchase healthy, culturally appropriate food,” said DTA Commissioner Amy Kershaw. “P-EBT also brings critical resources into our local communities, supporting food retailers and their employees.”

“P-EBT benefits are an important piece of support for students and families during this challenging time,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. “I’m grateful to everyone at the state and district levels who are helping to feed children, from the people facilitating P-EBT benefits to the school nutrition workers preparing free meals.”

Families with eligible students will receive their P-EBT benefits monthly for the remainder of the school year. Based on federal rules, families will receive varying P-EBT amounts. Families with children in a fully remote learning environment will receive $117 a month per child, and children in a hybrid learning environment will receive $58 a month per child. Families can check their P-EBT balance by calling the number on the back of the card. P-EBT benefits can be used anywhere Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are accepted, including online from Walmart and Amazon. Learn more about P-EBT at MAp-ebt.org.

P-EBT builds upon the work of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center’s Food Security Task Force to strengthen our local food system and maximize federal food assistance programs to ensure that food insecurity needs are addressed during the COVID-19 public health emergency and into the long-term.

Families who already receive DTA benefits will get their P-EBT benefits on their existing EBT card. Families who do not receive DTA benefits, but were mailed a P-EBT card in the past, will get their P-EBT benefits on their existing P-EBT card. Newly eligible students will receive their P-EBT benefits on their EBT card if receiving DTA benefits or will be mailed a P-EBT card if they do not receive DTA benefits. Families who lost their P-EBT card can request a new one.

Many families eligible for P-EBT may also be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and are being encouraged to apply. Children and teens participating in the free and reduced-price lunch program can also get free meals at hundreds of school meal locations throughout the state, no registration or ID required.

The Baker-Polito Administration also announced that Massachusetts residents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can now use their EBT SNAP benefits to buy groceries online from participating ALDI stores for pickup and delivery via Instacart. ALDI joins Walmart and Amazon as federally approved SNAP online retailers in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts first launched the SNAP online purchasing program on May 29th. To date, Massachusetts residents have spent over $19 million in SNAP online grocery purchases. Similar to using EBT SNAP benefits to purchase food in a store, benefits can be used to buy SNAP-eligible foods online, including fresh produce, frozen foods, dairy and eggs.

“SNAP online purchasing is one of several tools the Administration is employing, alongside the state’s national leadership in Pandemic EBT, to combat food insecurity for Massachusetts families and advance the COVID-19 Command Center Food Security Task Force’s recommendation to maximize federal nutrition programs,” said COVID-19 Command Center Director and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “Helping thousands of families across the Commonwealth shop for healthy food in a safe way is important as we continue to navigate our way through the public health crisis.”

“As a result of the economic fallout of COVID-19, the Commonwealth has seen a historic increase in residents using SNAP benefits to buy food. SNAP remains our most critical tool to help fight food insecurity by putting money directly into the hands of over 500,000 households,” said Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Amy Kershaw.

pandemic EBT

“The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt all communities, but for our most vulnerable populations, it has exacerbated the inequalities that exist when it comes to accessing food,” said Andrew Nodes, Vice President of Retail at Instacart. “By unlocking the use of EBT SNAP benefits for grocery and delivery services at ALDI in Massachusetts, we’re helping to ensure that residents who lack transportation, are homebound with disability or illness, or are elderly can access fresh, nutritious food and supplies during the remainder of the pandemic and beyond. We’re proud of our partnership with Baker-Polito Administration and ALDI on this important initiative.”

Residents can shop for groceries online at Shop.ALDI.us. ALDI uses Instacart as its online grocery delivery and pickup platform. Search by zip code to find participating ALDI stores with delivery and pickup options. Some retailers have a delivery fee, and all Instacart orders have a service fee.

New with this expansion and to help subsidize costs for EBT SNAP beneficiaries, during a 90 day period starting December 16, 2020, Instacart will waive delivery and/or pickup fees on up to the first three EBT SNAP orders from ALDI for each customer with a valid EBT card associated with their Instacart account.

SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay for fees, like delivery fees. Economic assistance programs benefits received through DTA, Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC), cannot be used to purchase items online at this time.

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