Governor Greg Abbott has announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in food benefits through the federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to families with children who have temporarily lost access to free or discounted school meals due to COVID-19-related school closures.
P-EBT provides a one-time benefit of $285 per child, which can be used in the same way as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits to pay for groceries. P-EBT will be administered through a coordinated effort by the HHSC, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and Texas Education Agency.
"I thank the U.S. Department of Agriculture for providing these emergency benefits to Texas families, and for the swift action of our state agencies to administer these benefits across the state," said Governor Abbott. "This program will expand access to healthy and nutritious food for families and children in need as the state continues to respond to COVID-19."
"Families across our state have had to rapidly adjust to the impacts of this pandemic and we’re thankful to our many state and federal partners who were able to work together for our fellow Texans," said HHS Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson. "These emergency benefits will provide additional assistance to those families on free and reduced-price meal plans, giving greater access to nutritious food for children most in need."
"Despite this crisis, the one thing that never changes is that children need to eat," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, "And the Texas Department of Agriculture has been working hard with our federal, state and community partners to make sure no child goes hungry because of this pandemic. Not only will these benefits give these kids and their families a little help with the food bill, I hope it gives them a little hope in a dark time."
More than three million children in Texas are certified to receive free or reduced-price meals at school during the 2019-2020 school year. Households with school children who received SNAP food benefits for the month of March or were recipients of free or reduced-price meals at school before the statewide school closure are eligible for P-EBT benefits. Families who were certified for the free or reduced-price school meals program after in-person instruction at schools ended due to COVID-19 are also eligible to receive the benefit.
Families with children aged 5 to 18 who received SNAP food benefits for the month of March, when school campuses first closed, will automatically receive P-EBT on their current Lone Star Card by May 22.
Families who have children certified for free or reduced-price meals during the 2019-20 school year but did not receive SNAP benefits for the month of March will need to apply. Families with children who received meals at no cost to them because their schools are defined as Community Eligibility Provision or Provision II schools also need to apply. Those families will receive a notification from their school district by May 31 which will include eligibility information and how to access the application. The application will be open from June 1 to June 30, and applications will be processed in the order they are received. After completing the application, eligible families will receive benefits on a new Texas P-EBT card in the mail.
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