By Lynne Terry
Oregon is sending $170 million in extra food aid to children in low-income families statewide.
The Department of Human Services will start issuing payments of $391 from late March to the end of May. A news release said 434,000 children will receive payments.
The money comes from a federal program to help children whose access to food may have been curtailed by the pandemic. The state has sent “multiple rounds” of similar payments, according to Jake Sunderland, press secretary for the department. In the most recent round last fall, 80,000 children received payments totaling $46 million.
To be eligible, children must have been eligible for free or reduced price lunches during the 2021-22 school year or attended an eligible school, have been enrolled last summer in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and be younger than 6. To qualify for SNAP in Oregon, residents can earn To qualify, individuals can earn up to $2,265 a month and a family of three can make up to $3,838 a month.
The payments coincide with a drastic cut in federal food benefits. This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ended emergency SNAP payments, slashing monthly benefits from about $450 per household to $270 a month for about 410,000 households. More than 700,000 people in Oregon qualify for SNAP.
The upcoming one-time payments will not be limited to households, however. Each child who qualifies will receive a payment card in the mail, which means that a family with three children who qualify will receive three payments.
“As communities continue to be affected by COVID-19 and the rising cost of food, we know that many families are experiencing hardship and are struggling to get enough healthy food for themselves and their children,” Claire Seguin, an interim director of one of the department’s benefit programs, said in a release.
The payments are separate from monthly SNAP benefits and were approved by the federal government in October. Families will be notified by a letter in the mail and that will be followed by a payment card.
The money will not affect meal programs offered in schools. Families with questions can call 844-ORE-PEBT or 844-673-7328 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with service in English, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Somalian, Mandarin and Cantonese.
This story first appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle.