PROVIDENCE, RI – As parents do back to school shopping and kids prepare to return to classrooms, U.S. Senator Jack Reed says that $2.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding is being put to work this month helping thousands eligible families afford school supplies and other basic household expenses for their children.  

Known as the Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund (PEAF), the federal funding from the American Rescue Plan law is disbursed by the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) and provides a little extra support to those in need.  The one-time $370 PEAF benefit is distributed this month to eligible households across the state.  DHS estimates that the payments will reach 7,325 children whose families are enrolled in the RI Works program.

RI Works administers the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  It helps extremely low-income families meet their basic needs by providing cash assistance and other employment and financial supports, such as SNAP benefits, health insurance, bus passes, and subsidized childcare.

“We want every child to get a healthy start and have an opportunity to get a good education and reach their full potential.  This is a time of year where parents of vulnerable kids can really use a little extra purchasing power and I’m pleased to help make these funds available for Rhode Island families in need,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee who voted to established PEAF as part of the American Rescue Plan Act last year.  “This one-time payment is helping low-income families across the state afford basic back-to-school necessities like food, clothes, backpacks, and school supplies.  Hopefully this federal funding will ensure more families can send their students to school ready to learn and thrive.”

RI Works provides eligible Rhode Island residents with assistance and supportive services designed to help families increase their income and achieve their career and educational goals.

Nationwide, $923 million was allotted for these PEAF payments to help families enrolled in public assistance in all fifty states.

Eligible RI Works households should have gotten a notice in the mail about the extra allotment.  The one-time payment is disbursed electronically and was distributed to users earlier this month via electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.  The funds must be used within 90 days or they will be expunged.

If RI Works recipients have questions about the amounts added to their EBT card, they can call 1-855-MY-RIDHS (1-855-697-4347) during business hours.