Feds approve NV plan for back P-EBT payments, $175 million to be distributed
The state's plan didn't get federal approval until last month, delaying distribution. So even though they are summer benefits, they will be distributed in the fall. (Image by Squirrel_photos)
Last month Nevada received federal approval to continue a popular free food program designed to replace meals children missed at school and child care because of pandemic-related closures.
Congress temporarily extended the free food program in January to cover younger children and the summer months.
Now eligible K-12 students across Nevada will once again receive Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, or P-EBT, a food assistance program that helped feed thousands of low-income children who qualified for free or reduced lunch during the 2020-2021 school year.
In Clark County, three out of four school children are on free or reduced lunch as of 2021, according to the Clark County School District.
Parents can expect to receive the additional food benefits starting September. While benefits were originally planned to start in July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not approve the state plan till last month, ultimately delaying distribution. So even though they are summer benefits, they will be distributed in the fall, starting September.
State officials said they expect to issue about $175,200,000 in summer P-EBT benefits to around 448,000 children. The daily benefits for the 2021-2022 school year is $7.10 for all students, however, not all children will be eligible for summer benefits.
To qualify, a student’s school must have been closed or operating at reduced attendance for a COVID related reason for five consecutive days. Once this threshold is met, all students in that particular school will be eligible for P-EBT benefits for each qualifying absence for the remainder of the school year.
Most Nevada schools have returned to in-person instruction and students can now receive meals in person, meaning many families will receive fewer benefits than before.
Families who are already receiving food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will receive P-EBT benefits directly to their preexisting cards. For children in households that do not receive SNAP benefits, new P-EBT cards will be automatically mailed to the address provided by the students’ school.
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 the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Welfare and Supportive Services (DHHS), which administers the program.
Federal money meant to combat hunger rolled into Nevada during the pandemic. Food benefits for families in the state who depend on SNAP also increased by about 15% during the pandemic and delivered almost $500 million in additional emergency benefits for more than 300,000 low-income and food-insecure families. However, that program ended last month.
As states gradually ended their state of emergency status and employment climbed, most pandemic-era food assistance programs meant to support struggling families followed along.
Food bank operators in Southern Nevada are expecting a large growth in demand starting next month as emergency SNAP benefits end in the state, a pattern seen in other states, said Regis Whaley the director of advocacy and research for Three Square of Southern Nevada.
Over the last three months, the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services has received about 20% more SNAP applications on average than the same time last year, according to state data.
Three Square has already noted an increase in the number of Nevadans utilizing food pantries since March as inflation grew and jacked up prices for groceries, gas, and other household expenses. In response, Three Square has added six new distribution sites since the beginning of the year.
With inflation soaring, SNAP benefits are not buying as much as they did a year ago, said Whaley.
“We do feel confident that going forward we will be able to meet the need, even as that need continues to change in response to so much change,” Whaley said.
Three Square maintains a list of food pantries in Southern Nevada. Families looking for food assistance to can find a distribution site at the organization’s website.
Three Square also offers free summer meals to children 18 years of age or younger from June 1 to August 6 through their “Meet Up and Eat Up” program. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by Nevada’s Department of Agriculture.
Locations offering the free summer meals include park and recreation centers, Boys & Girls Clubs, libraries, day camps and apartment complexes. Three Square provides meals to apartment complexes using refrigerated vans to reach children where they live.
Parents can visit the program’s website to find a location offering free summer meals near them.
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