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Texas announces over $600 million in pandemic food benefits

By Megan Wehring

Some Texas parents can now feel a bit of relief when it comes to feeding their families. 

On April 12, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a fourth round of federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) food benefits for Texas families with children who temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to COVID-19.

“Thank you to HHSC and TEA [Texas Education Agency] for working with the USDA to secure these food benefits for Texas families,” Abbott said. “The P-EBT program has strengthened our efforts over the past two years to ensure families and children across the state have access to nutritious meals.”

HHSC received federal approval to provide more than $626 million in benefits to approximately 2.1 million eligible children in Texas for the 2021-2022 school year, according to a news release. To date, HHSC has distributed approximately $6.13 billion in P-EBT food benefits to Texas families.  

“We’re thankful for the opportunity to continue this successful P-EBT program in Texas,” said Wayne Salter, HHS deputy executive commissioner of Access and Eligibility Services. “These food benefits provide much-needed assistance to families and children impacted by school closures.”

To be eligible for the 2021-2022 school year P-EBT, students must be certified for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) at their school and have experienced COVID-related absences, virtual attendance or campus closures. The P-EBT is based on the number of days an individual student did not receive in-person instruction due to COVID-19 illness. Families will receive $7.10 for each eligible day.

Receiving free meals at school does not automatically qualify a child for P-EBT. A student is NSLP-certified with a school-approved NSLP household application, when directly certified through programs like SNAP, Medicaid or TANF, or if they are enrolled in a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school or Provision 2 (P2) school.

Eligible families who currently receive SNAP, and those who have received P-EBT in the past, will receive benefits on their existing Lone Star Card or P-EBT Card. They will be mailed a notice with information about their student’s benefit amount and do not need to take any action.

Eligible families who do not currently receive SNAP and have never received P-EBT will be mailed a notice with a claim code because additional information is needed to issue benefits. The notice will explain how they can claim benefits for eligible students within 90 days by calling the P-EBT Call Center or visiting YourTexasBenefits.com.

Some families will start receiving P-EBT benefits as early as the week of April 18. Other families may receive their benefits beginning in July, based on when schools provide student information to HHSC.

Visit hhs.texas.gov/pebt or call the P-EBT Call Center at 833-442-1255 to learn more.

About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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