More than 150,000 Maine Children Benefit from Pandemic Food Assistance

September 12, 2023

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that it has distributed over $166 million in food assistance to the families of more than 150,000 Maine children through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program.

This month, the Department issued the final round of federally funded benefits through the program, which began in May 2020 as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020.

The federally funded P-EBT benefit provided additional nutrition support for families of infants and children eligible for free or reduced school lunch, but who did not have access to school-based food programs because they were learning remotely, or absent due to illness caused by COVID-19. The benefit was also available to eligible children who were homeschooled or attended fully virtual school due to concerns related to COVID-19. The average benefit per month ranged from $40 to $120 per child, per month, depending on whether the child’s school was partially or fully remote.

The P-EBT program sunset with the end of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) on May 11, 2023. While this month’s benefits issuance marks the final round of P-EBT payments to eligible families, DHHS will continue to process individual applications on a rolling basis for families who believe they may be eligible for, but have not received, P-EBT benefits. Families must submit an application by September 30, 2023. More information about the P-EBT program, including current eligibility requirements and instructions for applying, is available on the DHHS website and by calling 211.

The support provided to families by P-EBT supported other pandemic-related food assistance programs. Families who received P-EBT can still access several options available to all Maine people who need extra assistance with food:

  • Free School Meals: All Maine children have access to free meals in the School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs thanks to State of Maine funding. The Governor’s biennial budget included $58 million to fully fund continuation  of this program.
  • WIC Nutrition Program: Additional support for food and formula through the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program is available to eligible Maine people who are pregnant or have recently given birth, people who are breastfeeding, and infants and children up to age five. Maine families currently receiving SNAP benefits are automatically eligible for WIC. Information about eligibility and how to apply for WIC benefits is available on the ME WIC webpage.
  • Workers Supplement Benefit: Qualifying working SNAP families with children under age 18 in the home will automatically continue to receive $100 per month for food, in addition to their base SNAP benefits. This is funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
  • General Assistance: Maine people may be eligible for General Assistance  through their local municipal office to help pay for food. Those who are unable to reach their local General Assistance office or have questions can call DHHS’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-442-6003.
  • Harvest Bucks: Maine residents receiving SNAP benefits may qualify for extra financial help or “bonus bucks” when buying food at over 50 farmers’ markets, farm stands, and cooperatives. The Governor’s biennial budget included $1.2 million to provide support for this program.
  • Food Pantries and Food Banks: Emergency food assistance programs are available in all Maine counties and can be found online through this list of emergency food assistance providers or by calling 211. The Governor’s biennial budget included $2 million to continue support to supplement Federal funding for food assistance programs.

This blog post has been updated to correct the start date of the P-EBT program.