OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on many families with the loss of jobs and the stress of teaching children at home.
However, it has also taken a dramatic toll on families who were already struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic began.
Many families rely on public schools to provide free or reduced-priced meals for children in need. When schools shut their doors, some districts were not able to continue providing meals to families.
According to Feeding America, one in six Oklahomans struggle with hunger, and one in four are food insecure.
Now, families with school-aged children who are in need may be able to receive extra food benefits.
Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service announced that Oklahoma was approved to operate a ‘Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer ‘ program through funding it received under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Officials say the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program provides extra food benefits for families with school-aged children who would have received free or reduced-priced school meals through the National School Lunch Program.
Through a data-sharing agreement with DHS and the Oklahoma State Department of Education, current SNAP households identified by OKDHS, as well as non-SNAP households with children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, will automatically receive benefits.
“Oklahoma state agencies are collaborating more than ever before to build a stronger Oklahoma that better supports and brings hope to our state’s families,” said Secretary for Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives and OKDHS Director, Justin Brown. “Our partnership with OSDE is critical to ensuring all Oklahoma children eligible for P-EBT benefits receive them and that our state’s children receive the nutrition they need to grow and learn.”
“We appreciate this partnership to reach children and families who are economically impacted most because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “Children must have their basic needs met to be ready to learn, and many Oklahoma families rely on free or reduced-priced school meals when schools are open. We’re grateful that OKDHS is a strong ally in making sure our children have every opportunity for high-quality nutrition during this unprecedented time.”
P-EBT benefits will be issued for the 44-day period that schools were closed at the end of the 2019-2020 school year from March 17 through May 15, 2020.
OKDHS estimates that it will issue $35.9 million to 80,158 SNAP households and $75.1 million to 231,863 non-SNAP households. These benefits are equivalent to the daily reimbursement for free breakfast and lunch in the state.
Using the above calculation, eligible Oklahoma families will receive the following P-EBT benefits by Aug. 30:
|Free Breakfast||Free Lunch||Benefit totals|
|Reimbursable Rate||$2.20||$3.50||Per day – $5.70|
|March missed days||11||$24.20||$38.50||March – $62.70|
|April missed days||22||$48.40||$77.00||April – $125.40|
|May missed days||11||$24.20||$38.50||May – $62.70|
|Total benefit per eligible child||$250.80|
Again, families do not need to make application or contact either agency in order to receive these benefits, which will be automatically issued in staggered allotments by Aug. 30.
Each month’s issuance will be completed separately resulting in three separate deposits to be completed by Aug. 30, but all benefits will be received on the same card. Families already receiving SNAP will receive the P-EBT benefits on their cards.
Non-SNAP families will be issued EBT cards, which they will receive in the mail along with instructions on pinning the card, how to decline the benefit or return the card.
Households who believe they are eligible but who have not received P-EBT benefits by Aug. 30, or who believe there was an error, may contact OKDHS at (405) 522-5050 for assistance after Aug. 30.
“We are excited to offer this benefit to the Oklahoma families who need it most,” said Patrick Klein, Director of OKDHS Adult and Family Services. “Both SNAP and NSLP, along with other similar programs administered by the USDA FNS, are designed to ensure that children and families have access to the resources and nutrition they need to be successful. We are proud of this partnership in support of Oklahoma’s families.”
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