Statement attributable to Michael J. Wilson, Director, Maryland Hunger Solutions
BALTIMORE, April 29, 2021 – Maryland Hunger Solutions commends the state’s Department of Human Services and Maryland State Department of Education for successfully creating a plan to issue Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to students and families who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals during pandemic-related school and/or childcare closures for the 2020-2021 school year. Benefits will also be extended through the summer.
The plan will provide eligible students and families P-EBT benefits to purchase food with an EBT card at their local grocery stores, farmers markets, and other Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers for both school-aged children and children under the age of six years old starting in May 2021. Additionally, the plan will expand P-EBT to children under the age of six from households participating in the SNAP, as of October 1, 2020.
With more than 1 in 10 Maryland households facing poverty and hunger, P-EBT benefits will ensure that families have sufficient nutrition and will not have to resort to skipping meals. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused devastating financial hardships for Maryland families. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state saw a steep 42 percent increase in the number of SNAP recipients in Maryland. The state has also experienced record-high levels of unemployment during the pandemic, with over 13,500 unemployment claims filed in the first week of March 2021 alone. Maryland has numerous community eligibility schools whose students are automatically eligible for P-EBT. This extension of P-EBT benefits will bring much-needed relief to families throughout the state.
In addition to SNAP, the child nutrition programs have played a critical role in addressing childhood hunger in Maryland. With the wave of pandemic school closures since last March, the families of over 384,000 Maryland students receiving free or reduced-price school meals are now struggling to overcome the loss of these meals. While school districts and community partners have made remarkable efforts to support families, school closures and hybrid learning models have made it difficult to reach all families in need. The P-EBT program is essential to closing this nutritional gap by providing direct relief funds to families to purchase food.
While we may be nearing the end of the pandemic, the economic impacts of COVID-19 will continue to affect Maryland families and contribute to food insecurity throughout the state.
MDHS is available to help individuals and families receive the nutrition they need to grow and thrive and has set up a toll-free number — 1-866- 821-5552 — that can be accessed from anywhere in the state. Maryland residents wishing to apply for SNAP can call the toll-free number, leave a message and Maryland Hunger Solutions staff will get back to them and walk them through the application process. Staff also are connecting callers with other much-needed resources, such as pantries, food banks and school meals in their local community.
Maryland Hunger Solutions works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, and well-being of children and families in Maryland.