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On Thursday, June 25, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced Oklahoma’s approval to operate a Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program through funding provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
P-EBT 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 (NSLP) and who meet certain eligibility criteria.
Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) and the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) worked together to create a state plan ensuring that every eligible household across the state could access benefits without needing to complete an application.
Through a collaborative data-sharing agreement, current SNAP households identified by OKDHS, as well as non-SNAP households which include children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals identified by OSDE, will automatically receive P-EBT 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.”
Both agencies have been working with Hunger Free Oklahoma (HFO) since the pandemic began to leverage all of the supports and flexibilities authorized by the USDA.
While many other states have required applications to distribute the benefits, HFO worked with both agencies to identify the solution that would minimize bureaucracy and get resources to Oklahoma families as efficiently as possible.
“Partnership brings more effective and efficient solutions by leveraging the resources of each partner,” said HFO Executive Director Chris Bernard. “We are grateful to Director Brown and Superintendent Hofmeister and their staff who have all been working tirelessly for the last three months to make sure that Oklahomans hardest hit by the pandemic have the resources they need to weather the storm. We are proud to be their partners.”
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, or $5.70 as specified by the USDA, multiplied by the average number of days school was cancelled in the month for each eligible child in the household.
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 August 30, 2020.
Each month’s issuance will be completed separately resulting in three separate deposits to be completed by August 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 August 30, or who believe there was an error, may contact OKDHS at (405) 522-5050 for assistance. Please do not call this number until after August 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.”