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Summer P-EBT benefits go to families of eligible school children

The Alabama Department of Human Resources has received federal approval to distribute Summer Pandemic EBT benefits to an estimated 485,000 children who participate in the National School Lunch Program – and some families in Franklin County will qualify.

The benefits will help feed children enrolled in the program, which provides free and reduced-price meals at school. Eligible families will receive $391 for each child in the program.

“Hunger doesn’t take a summer break,” explained Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner, who said the summer P-EBT benefits will “provide financial flexibility and promote continued food security” for students as they transition between school years.

Summer P-EBT benefits can be used to purchase SNAP-eligible food items at stores that accept Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.

Households with eligible students who received P-EBT benefits previously will access Summer P-EBT benefits on their existing EBT cards. Those who are new to the National School Lunch Program will receive EBT cards in the mail.

All recipients should keep their EBT cards in case additional benefits are added in the future.

“It’s a great program,” said Russellville City Schools Child Nutrition Program Director Elaine Vaughn. “The benefits will be for summer, but it probably won’t show up on the EBT cards until sometime between Sept. 1-30.”

Those enrolled in the National School Lunch program this past year are automatically in place to receive the benefit. Vaughn said those who apply and qualify in August will also receive it.

Although all public-school children could access free meals during the 2021-22 school year, Summer P-EBT benefits are limited to those who participate in the National School Lunch Program by application or through either the Community Eligibility Provision or a Provision 2 school.

Families with questions about eligibility should contact the schools their children attend.

To become eligible for Summer P-EBT, families may apply for the National School Lunch Program by contacting their local schools no later than Aug. 31; however, FCS CNP Director Robynn Bragwell explained that for students in the Franklin County Schools and Russellville City Schools, no application is needed at this time.

“They don’t have to apply with us if their child is going to a school in our system,” Bragwell said. “They’ll be under that program because we already do the National School Lunch Program, and we don’t have to take applications right now because we’re operating under what’s called provision.”

Bragwell said all students in the Franklin County and Russellville City Schools systems are currently operating under that special allowance.

“This is a program we did together through the USDA.”

She explained there are two key things she wants people to know: “If anyone is concerned about participating in this program due to their legal status, I want them to know we are not in the tattling business. We don’t want anyone to miss out on what they qualify for.”

She added it’s important to make sure the student’s address is correct in the student attendance and enrollment system. “If the address isn’t correct, they’ll probably miss their benefits. That’s the biggest issue we run into,” she said.

Eligible families are encouraged to monitor dhr.alabama.gov for additional updates, including information about a timeframe for the arrival of benefits.

DHR oversees the distribution of Summer P-EBT with assistance from ALSDE. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service administers the program at the federal level.

Support specialists are available to answer questions about P-EBT by phone at 1-800-410-5827 and online at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance/ from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

SEAMLESS SUMMER

More immediate help is available this summer through the Seamless Summer feeding program, which is operating now through July.

Under that program:

Franklin County Schools will be open for breakfast and lunch at Belgreen School, East Franklin Junior High, Phil Campbell High School, Red Bay High School, Tharptown High School and Vina High School from June 6 through June 30 and July 11-14. Breakfast will be served each day from 7:30-9 a.m., and lunch will be served each day from 10 a.m. to noon.

Russellville City Schools will be open for breakfast and lunch at Russellville Elementary May 31 through July 22. Breakfast will be served each day from 7:15-9 a.m., and lunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

All children, birth to 18, can receive breakfast and lunch at no cost. Children do not have to be a student in Franklin County Schools or Russellville City Schools to receive these meals.

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