Texas extends pandemic benefits for families whose kids have lost access to free or reduced-price meals

Central Texas Food Bank volunteers prepare to distribute free food to help people facing increasing food insecurity at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin on July 1, 2021.

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Families with students relying on free or reduced-cost meals at school can now receive a single payment of $375 as a part of a summer round of Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer food aid, which has previously provided single payments of up to $1,200 for eligible students.

The federal benefit provides food aid for the 3.7 million eligible low-income children in Texas who lost access to free and reduced-price meals when the pandemic first shuttered schools. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will allocate more than $1.4 billion to families that have struggled to afford food during the pandemic for this latest round in coordination with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Education Agency.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that families who applied for P-EBT aid for the 2020-21 school year and already received benefits will automatically receive the $375 payment, along with families of children born after Aug. 1, 2014, who relied on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits this summer. SNAP provides food aid for low-income adults.

The P-EBT card can be used at all places that accept SNAP payments, including grocery stores and supermarkets.

“As children across the state start going back to school, we’re thankful we can provide this added benefit so Texans can provide nutritious food for their families,” said Wayne Salter, deputy executive commissioner of access and eligibility services for Texas Health and Human Services.

For families that have not applied, they now have until Sept. 13 for the previous round of pandemic EBT aid, which could range up to $1,200 depending on how often students attended in-person classes at their schools.

Schools and districts will work with families to notify them if they qualify for the National School Lunch Program and are able to receive Pandemic EBT food aid. The application for free and reduced-cost meals will remain open until Aug. 28 for the upcoming school year.

Some families that didn’t previously qualify for EBT food aid may qualify for the summer amount. If their children attended Texas schools during the last month of the school year, they could still be eligible depending on their circumstances.

Jamie Olson, director of government affairs for Feeding Texas, worked with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to help reach families that needed food aid. Feeding Texas is a state association of food banks.

Olson said she believes the EBT aid model will continue beyond the pandemic.

“Childhood hunger drastically increases during those summer months when kids are out of school, and families are having to stretch their resources thinner since those school meals are not available during the summertime,” Olson said. “This EBT model is so much more efficient and effective on combating childhood hunger than traditional models that are based on providing meals in person to kids at essentially community sites.”

Disclosure: Feeding Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribunes journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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