HEBBRONVILLE, Texas — For the second year, the federal government is providing relief for families in the form of the Pandemic Eligibility Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program. The program provides benefits for families who temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price meals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not everyone is eligible.
The program covers students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), kids born after Aug. 1, 2014, whose families received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for at least one month between October 2020 and June 2021, and students who attend a Community Eligible Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 (P2) school.
One local district that falls under the CEP umbrella is Jim Hogg County ISD, which means the district provides free meals to all students.
“Every child is eligible for breakfast and lunch, we even do after-school snacks for kids that stay after school,” said Dr. Susana Garza, the superintendent of JHCISD. “I think it’s a plus for every parent that’s in the district that has a child here at Jim Hogg County.”
In 2020, the P-EBT program helped many families in the district who lost access to free meals due to the pandemic. One parent who benefited from the program was Laura Garza.
“I have four kids at home, and when school lets out, or we’re on any vacation from school, the big thing is, ‘oh my God, I need to feed my kids.’ I have three boys, one girl, so the food goes quick,” she said.
Annie Cantu is another parent who used the P-EBT program last year.
“There’s been a struggle for some families to put food on the table, so the P-EBT program really helps out a lot of families, especially the families that had lost work due to the pandemic,” she said.
Garza said the program was helpful for her to buy snacks for her kids to eat when they were hungry in between meals, and provide better quality food for her kids.
“You get your lunch, you get your dinner, you get your breakfast, but in between they want to eat all day long, and if that’s not in your budget, that’s really hard,” she said.
The timing of the program is perfect for families in need, because they will be able to use the money they receive for the summer, when their kids do not receive food from the school.
“It gets really expensive," Garza said. "When kids are home, the grocery bill doubles or triples, and it’s on top of expenses you already had."
“Especially teenagers, the kids eat a lot, so this helps out a lot,” Cantu said.
The enrollment for the P-EBT program opens June 2, and will remain in place through Aug. 13. The link to register is here.
For more information on the program, contact your child's school district, or visit the Texas Department of Health and Human Services website.