Families of children who normally receive free or reduced-priced meals can now apply for Pandemic EBT. P-EBT benefits cover the cost of 50 school day meals, the time of statewide school closures through the end of the academic school year.

"This might be the only way some of our most vulnerable children can obtain a nutritious breakfast or lunch," Gov. John Bel Edwards, said in a news release. "They used to receive these meals at school, and now Louisiana can provide that benefit at home, too."

Edwards thanked Congress, President Donald Trump and Sonny Perdue, USDA secretary for approving the statewide benefit and expediting its implementation.

P-EBT amounts to $5.70 per day per child for a total of $285. Eligible families can apply to the program at www.louisianabelieves.com and the deadline is June 7.

The Louisiana Department of Education said it expects "considerable interest in the program" and asks applicants to be patient when trying to access the portal.

Once applications are processed by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, a P-EBT debit card loaded with $285 per child will be mailed. The State expects to begin mailing cards May 26 and benefits are available for 365 days.

Families can use the card at any store that accepts SNAP to purchase SNAP-eligible food items.

Students who attend a Community Eligibility Provision school are also eligible for the P-EBT benefit, Holly Holland, Calcasieu Parish School Board spokeswoman, said. A full list of CEP schools is available on the School Nutrition Program website, www.cpsb.org/Page/9298.

Families who have already completed a free or reduced lunch application must apply to the P-EBT program separately. The program is not intended to replace traditional SNAP benefits, Holland said, as P-EBT is a one-time benefit.

"If a family has lost a job or hours, they should absolutely apply for traditional SNAP as well," she said.

CPSB students are also still eligible to receive meals delivered to their home through the Healthy School Food Collaborative, Holland said. Thus far over 7,000 students have taken advantage of the free service that is available to all CPSB students.

Home delivery will last through the month of June. To sign up visit www.cpsb.org/coronavirus and click "Meal Availability."

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