There’s a path forward for families eligible for P-EBT program: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

The state of Idaho is participating in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program, but it took some work to get to a path forward.

The P-EBT provides eligible families with a one-time payment for each child who previously received free or reduced-price meals at school. The Department of Health and Welfare does not administer the school lunch program. In order for Idaho to implement the P-EBT program, DHW and the Department of Education had to work out data share agreements to make sure data could be shared between the departments. Conversations between the two agencies started in earnest in early June. Because each individual school district owns the data for families eligible for the school lunch program, we worked together to ensure we were able to get all of the information in a format we could use from local public school districts to implement the program.

Now that the path forward has been determined, DHW and the Department of Education have submitted their plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval, and we have full confidence that our plan will be approved. When it is approved, we will get P-EBT payments to eligible families as soon as possible.

Idaho remains in Stage 4 of the Idaho Rebounds Plan for two more weeks

During Gov. Brad Little’s press conference on Thursday, he announced that Idaho would remain in Stage 4 for the next two weeks. Although we are staying in Stage 4, there is good news for Idahoans because:

  • Idaho has sufficient healthcare workers, PPE, ventilators, and ICU beds, and we are meeting the demands for testing our healthcare workers statewide. 
  • The state has downward trends in overall case counts as well as our percent-positivity rate.
  • Emergency room visits from those with COVID-like symptoms are declining.

Gov. Little added overall hospital admissions statewide to the list of metrics used to examine Idaho’s situation every two weeks and said those numbers need to be on a downward trend. He also noted that in some of the state’s hot spots, we are starting to see the benefits of the measures that local public health officials and mayors have put in place such as mask/cloth face covering orders or resolutions.

He also outlined the state’s commitment and support of the safe reopening of Idaho schools by directing the following resources:

  • $10 million for additional masks, gloves, sanitizer, and plexiglass for Idaho schools
  • $48 million will help bridge the “digital divide” and equip schools with the computers, connectivity, and other resources to ensure successful remote learning
  • $21 million toward COVID-19 testing for teachers and school staff
  • $3 million to increase testing lab turnaround time and capacity – as well as lab upgrades – to help get test results for teachers and school staff as quickly as possible
  • $3 million to leverage Idaho pharmacies in testing efforts to help quickly produce testing results for teachers, school staff, and families in rural Idaho, where the majority of Idaho school districts are located

While the state sets the framework, each local school district will make the best decision for their students and parents based on what is happening locally related to the pandemic. West Ada School District, the state’s largest school district, has pushed back their start date to September 8. The Boise School District will start the school year virtually on August 17. These are tough decisions to make, and many emotions are involved, so I would encourage all of us to be kind to one another. Everyone is doing their very best under difficult circumstances.

Crush the Curve Essay Contest

The Department of Health and Welfare is fortunate to be a part of the Crush the Curve essay contest. We have been reading the essays submitted by Idaho students, and we are impressed at the knowledge students have about the pandemic (as illustrated in their writing) as well as how well they are showcasing their critical thinking skills. Watch for my announcement of one of the winners through Crush the Curve’s announcement video scheduled for release on August 14.

Let’s keep each other safe

Again, I want to encourage everyone to follow recommended precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 to keep our schools and economy open and our families and most vulnerable residents of our state safe and healthy during this pandemic.

  • Keep six feet of distance between yourself and others in public places
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfectant surfaces and objects regularly
  • And, please, #MaskUpIdaho

It’s going to take all of us to slow the spread of COVID-19. I am thankful to all the Idahoans doing their part.

Stay safe and stay healthy this weekend. #MaskUpIdaho

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