The families of all Chicago Public Schools students will get at least $450 in federal funds this month — with hundreds of dollars more to come — to pay for meals that many are missing without in-person learning amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The state of Illinois is providing students with cards similar to debit cards that will allow them to purchase meals for the duration of virtual classes. The funds for the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program come from federal coffers, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Roughly one million students statewide will receive benefits from the program, but all CPS students will qualify since the school system already takes part in a federally-funded program that provides free lunch for every student, the Sun-Times reported.
The first round of money will come early this month on preloaded cards with $6.82 for each school day through December that students were in remote learning, the Sun-Times reported. In April, another card will be issued that contains funds for January through March. In May, a monthly stipend will be sent to families for the remainder of the school year.
“Research shows that children who are hungry are not able to focus and learn,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in a statement, the Sun-Times reported. “Schools have served more than 113 million meals to students since the pandemic began, and the P-EBT builds on this care and commitment to ensure all Illinois children have their nutritional needs met.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the program brought the state “another step closer to ending hunger for all.”