by Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
Starting this month, Nevada is set to begin distributing a popular federal free food funding program designed to replace meals children missed at school and child care because of pandemic-related closures.
The state will distribute summer Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer payments, or P-EBT throughout September, October and November.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Nevada’s P-EBT plan to provide food benefits for the summer months to children enrolled in free or reduced-price meals during the last school year.
In Clark County, three out of four school children were on free or reduced lunch as of 2021, according to the Clark County School District.
“For far too long, millions of families have struggled to keep their kids fed and healthy during the summer while schools are out,” said Cindy Long, an administrator for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service in a statement Wednesday. “Child food benefits can bridge the gap and help families provide the nourishment their children deserve. These benefits can help American families in need cope with rising food costs.”
Nevada is one of 40 states approved to issue the resumed food benefits for children.
To qualify, a child’s school must have been closed or operating at reduced capacity for 5 consecutive days, or 4 consecutive days if the school operates on a 4 day per week calendar. Children under age six who live in a household receiving SNAP benefits will also qualify for the benefits.
Children will receive a benefit of $7.10 for each day the child had a qualifying absence due to COVID. All children enrolled in the free or reduced-price meals program will also receive a standard one-time benefit of $391 in the month of October. State officials said they expect to issue about $175,200,000 in summer P-EBT benefits to around 448,000 children.
The first set of benefits for the months of August 2021 – November 2021, will be issued September 14-23. The second set of benefits for the months of December 2021 – February 2022 will be issued October 14 – 23. The third and final P-EBT issuance for the months of March 2022 – June 2022, will go out November 14 – 23.
Families who receive food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will receive P-EBT benefits directly to their preexisting cards starting in September. However, if children are not in a SNAP household they will not receive their P-EBT cards in the mail until mid to late October.
Students will receive new P-EBT cards issued under their name by mail starting in October if they have a qualifying absence for the months of August 2021-November 2021. The remaining cards will go out 3-4 weeks after the second round of benefits in October 14-23, which means households will receive those cards in the mail in mid to late November.
“Some P-EBT children are on an active SNAP case with the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services. Approximately 25%, roughly 100,000 P-EBT eligible children will receive the P-EBT benefits on their household’s existing SNAP EBT card,” said Julie Balderson Knight, a spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, which administers food benefits.
The USDA said food benefits are more critical during times of inflation, when children are at a higher risk for food insecurity.
Over the last three months, the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services has received about 10% more SNAP applications on average than the same time last year, according to state data. The number of people receiving SNAP benefits over the last three months is also about 6% higher than the same period last year.
The department noted that “there is strong evidence that providing families with summer child food benefits has positive impacts,” including decreasing food insecure households by one-third and increasing consumption of healthy and nutritious foods.
Nevada distributed more than $498 million in P-EBT benefits to more than 396,000 children during the months it was allocated last year, according to Nevada DHHS.
P-EBT has seen heavy public participation in Nevada because it does not require parents to apply, making it “a very low burden to families,” said Long. There is no application and all eligible children will automatically receive the benefits, making the program effective at reaching children across diverse backgrounds and areas – including difficult-to-reach rural populations.
Using the P-EBT card will not affect immigration status. While the P-EBT benefit is not considered under the Public Charge Rule, which prevented immigrants from improving their immigration status if they received public assistance, that rule was also rescinded by President Joe Biden earlier this year. Parents will also not be asked about their or their children’s immigration status to receive the cards.
P-EBT benefits expire 274 days — roughly equivalent to nine months — after the activation of the P-EBT card, however, if the card is used before then the benefits will remain on the card for nine months from the date of last purchase.
Starting mid-September parents can view their child’s P-EBT eligibility and benefit information for the 2021-2022 school year at https://accessnevada.dwss.nv.gov/public/pebt-benefits/start.
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