Parents of 240,000 Iowa school children have begun receiving Pandemic Electronic Benefit (or P-EBT) cards in the mail, and some of those parents may be wondering whether there’s been a mistake.

The $120 cards were mailed to the homes of Iowa children (one for each child in grades K-12) who were eligible for free or reduced-price meals last year.

They were also mailed to the homes of all students who attended a school which qualified for the “Community Eligibility Provision” last year. Those are schools in which a high percentage of the student body receives free and reduced-price lunches.

Some of those are located in areas that might surprise you. For example, there are nine CEP schools in the West Des Moines School District. All children in those schools are eligible for free and reduced-price meals and have therefore been sent P-EBT cards.

If you received a card, the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services encourages you to use it on food for your children. The funds expire in nine months. You can use the card at places like Walmart, Hy-Vee, and Aldi — or anywhere EBT cards are normally accepted.

If you don’t want to use the card, you can cut it up and the funds will eventually be moved back to the state. You cannot transfer the card to another person outside your family.

The P-EBT program dates back to the spring of 2020 when many American school children were unable to receive meals at school. The program is administered by the USDA but funds are administered by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.