P-EBT cards worth $100-plus mailed to Maine families leaving some parents confused

Maine DHHS said the payments are intended to support families of children who did not have...
Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 6:41 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW) - Maine parents should be on the lookout for P-EBT cards arriving by mail that are intended to help families purchase food.

“It is legitimate, and kids can use it for the food that they want to,” said Sharon Hood, a mother in Pittsfield who is thankful to have P-EBT cards worth more than $100 each for her two teens.

The program is administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the agency, DHHS issued the final round of federally funded benefits through the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program.

While many parents are grateful for the assistance, some families were surprised to receive the cards.

“It does say ‘don’t throw this away,’ but it just looks like another piece of junk mail that a family that could use these funds could easily throw away or misplace in the mail, " Jason Mills, a father from Monmouth, said.

School leaders in several communities are alerting parents to be on the lookout for the P-EBT cards in the mail.

Yarmouth Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said in a notice to the school community that his office had been contacted by ‘numerous’ families curious about why they received the benefit.

“The Yarmouth School Department was unaware that the State was providing these cards to our students, but we have done a bit of research to determine why this is occurring,” Dolloff wrote.

Maine DHHS said the payments are intended to support families of children who did not have access to school-based food because they were learning remotely or absent due to illness.

The benefit was available to school-aged children eligible for free or reduced school lunch.

Since 2021, all Maine public school students have been able to eat for free.

Children who were homeschooled or learned remotely due to COVID-19 concerns are also eligible.

“I definitely think rather than just blanket sending these out across the state that a more targeted approach could have been more beneficial,” Mills said.

Maine DHHS announced in September the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program had distributed over $166 million in food assistance to families since 2021.

Maine DHHS did not respond to multiple requests for an interview Monday.

A spokesperson for the agency said families who choose not to use these benefits can throw the card away, and the funds will go back into the state’s SNAP account.