Texas Grocers Prepare for a Busy Week as Billions in Food Benefits Distributed

$2.5 billion in federal food assistance makes its way to Texas school children this week

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Grocery stores in Texas are preparing for a big week. More than $2 billion in pandemic food benefits for Texas families with kids in school will get loaded onto Lone Star Cards this week, starting Monday.

"It will start Monday night, and it will be about $300 million loaded onto Lone Star Cards per night the balance of the month. And that will be large business for our supermarkets," said Gary Huddleston, a grocery industry consultant with the Texas Retailers Association. "We've been preparing for this in our supermarkets and ordering more product, beefing up staffing because this will be, in the state of Texas, big business for our supermarkets and benefits for the families."

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced $2.5 billion in federal food benefits was on the way.

“Thank you to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approving this second round of pandemic food benefits for Texas families,” Abbott said in a news release. “These additional benefits will continue to help Texans provide food for their families. I thank our state partners at HHSC, TEA, and TDA for working together to secure these benefits and administering them quickly to families across the state.”

“These additional food benefits are a lifeline and will go a long way to help many Texas families put nutritious food on the table,” said HHS Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young in the news release. “We’ve worked closely with our many state and federal partners and we’re thankful to get this program off the ground so we can help people during this challenging time.”

The money is to make up for lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to COVID-19 during the 2020 - 2021 school year.

"$2.5 billion, and that was for the entire school year. And some might say, 'What took so long?' Well, some children were going to school. Some were virtually learning. Some were in hybrid. So the state agency had to work with the school districts to determine how many children and what specific children were at home learning versus were at school and getting lunch," Huddleston explained. "So after all that computation has been done, the total amount is $2.5 billion, and it will be loaded to the individual star card starting Monday night."

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer or P-BET provides a benefit of up to $1,200 per child for the school year. In this second round of P-EBT, HHSC received federal approval to provide more than $2.5 billion in benefits to approximately 3.7 million eligible children in Texas. The first round of P-EBT was distributed last summer and provided more than $1 billion in food benefits to more than 3 million children. The state says P-EBT benefits may also be issued for this summer.

P-EBT is for families with children who are certified for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program and families with children born after Aug. 1, 2014, who receive SNAP food benefits.

Most families who receive SNAP benefits will automatically see the money added to their Lone Star Card this week. Families who do not get SNAP but think they qualify for p-bet can apply with the state from June 2 to Aug.13.

Visit hhs.texas.gov/pebt or call the P-EBT Call Center at 833-442-1255 to learn more.

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