Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Announcements from the WI DPI School Nutrition Team (SNT)
Wisconsin has been approved to issue temporary food benefits, called Pandemic EBT or P-EBT, for school year (SY) 2020-21. The P-EBT program for SY 2020-21 provides food assistance for students that would have received free or reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP), but were unable to receive these meals at school because the school is closed, operating virtually, or has been operating with reduced attendance hours for at least five consecutive school days in the current school year. If you are unsure if your school normally participates in either of these programs, please check with your food service director.
Throughout the SY 2020-21, most schools in Wisconsin have been serving meals to all students for free under the Child Nutrition Program waivers and flexibilities offered by the USDA, regardless of if the school is operating virtually, in-person, or a hybrid of the two. Therefore, qualifying for P-EBT benefits is not dependent on whether meal service is offered or not.
Students enrolled in schools that are currently operating the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option may be eligible to receive P-EBT if their school would normally participate in NSLP and/or SBP and they meet other eligibility criteria. P-EBT eligibility depends on the individual student’s eligibility for free or reduced-price meals under NSLP regulations--not whether students received free meals in the 2020-21 school year or not.
P-EBT eligibility for SY 2020-21 is based on the following criteria:
- The student attends a school that would normally operate the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program, and
- Student attended school either virtually, a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning, or in-person learning with reduced attendance hours, and
- The student is eligible for free or reduced-price school meals or is enrolled in a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 school.
In order to ensure eligible families are able to receive the P-EBT funds they may qualify for, please continue to run your full student enrollment through Direct Certification, monthly or more often. It is crucial that any newly submitted free and reduced-price meal applications received are processed within ten (10) operating days of receipt of the application, the household is notified of its status, and the status is documented. Upon application approval, the student’s meal eligibility in the student information system (SIS) and the benefit issuance (BI) list must be updated. The Food Service Director and/or the free/reduced-price meal benefit determining official at your school should know how to complete this.
- For public and choice schools, please ensure any updates in the SIS are also reflected in WISE. With many SIS programs, this should occur automatically. However, it is important to verify that this update in WISE occurs. Please also update the benefit issuance (BI) list accordingly.
- For non-choice private schools, meal benefit eligibility changes should be reflected on the BI list — WISE is not required for non-choice private schools.
At the state level, student eligibility data for P-EBT will come from a combination of Direct Certification data and data entered into the state WISE portal for food service eligibility. For public and choice schools, it is essential that WISE is updated when a child is approved for free or reduced-price meal benefits. Collaboration between the school/district’s food service director, free/reduced-price meal benefit determining official, and the WISE coordinator will be needed to ensure successful information updates.
Please note: Approving a school meal application for a child and updating the SIS, BI list, and WISE data does not mean that child will automatically receive P-EBT funds. There are additional eligibility requirements, and families may need to submit a separate online simplified application to receive P-EBT benefits. Ensuring students are approved for free or reduced-price meal benefits at the school/district level is the necessary first step in establishing P-EBT eligibility and are all key responsibilities of the school administration.
There are many layers to the P-EBT program, so each of these items is crucial for making sure eligible children receive these much-needed food benefits.
- The collection and approval of school meal applications in a timely manner.
- Running full school enrollment in Direct Certification, at least monthly or more often.
- Updating student eligibility statuses in electronic systems
- The completion of school learning model surveys by principals/administrators. These surveys sometimes end up in spam email folders, so please check with principals/school administrators to make sure that the surveys have been completed and returned for each school under your school food authority (SFA).
The P-EBT issuance to eligible families began on the weekend of March 27 with the distribution of benefits for the months of August through November 2020. Eligible families that currently receive FoodShare benefits should have their P-EBT automatically deposited onto their existing Quest cards. Other eligible families that do not receive FoodShare and whose information was available at the state-level should have been mailed a new P-EBT card which could take 7-10 days to be received via postal service. Eligible families that do not receive a P-EBT notification letter automatically will need to complete an online P-EBT application which will be available April 12 on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) P-EBT webpage.
Families that have received a P-EBT notification letter, even if that letter indicates they received $0.00 in P-EBT benefits, should not complete an online P-EBT application. Instead, families with specific questions or concerns based on a P-EBT notification letter they received should email PEBTSupport@wisconsin.gov with a detailed description of their issue.
To support eligible families in receiving P-EBT they may be eligible for, schools should make sure to complete the second school learning model survey that was sent out on March 29 to school principals or other administrators listed on the DPI school directory. Timely and accurate completion of this second survey is crucial in ensuring eligible families receive P-EBT.
- A school can ONLY complete/submit the survey from the link emailed them on March 29th. Each link is unique to that particular school, so it cannot be shared or used by any other school besides the one indicated in the email and shown within the survey itself.
- Any questions regarding how to correctly fill out the survey, should be emailed to PEBTsupport@wisconsin.gov BEFORE submitting the survey. Once the survey is submitted, a school will not be able to access their survey again to make corrections. In the email to P-EBT Support, schools should include their full school name and be as detailed as possible with their questions.
More information can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) P-EBT webpage.
To receive automatic updates regarding P-EBT and the online P-EBT application, please sign up for email updates here.
Questions regarding P-EBT may be directed to PEBTsupport@wisconsin.gov.
While email contact is preferred and is the fastest way to receive assistance, a phone number is also now available: 1-833-431-2224.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
This is a communication from the WI Department of Public Instruction, School Nutrition Team.