DHHS Will Pursue a Second Round of P-Ebt SNAP Payments for School Lunches
By Christina Stella , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
Sept. 10, 2020, 4:16 p.m. ·
Over 156,000 children in Nebraska qualified for free or reduce-priced meals during the 2019-2020 school year. After COVID-19 closed schools statewide, many families received federal payments to cover the cost of serving lunch at home.
Congress approved the SNAP program expansion under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in March. Nebraska estimated it would distribute almost $44 million in federal funds for school meals at home from March through May, at a rate of $5.70 per child per day their school was closed. That amount ultimately came higher at over $50 million.
Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services is now pursuing another round of benefits for this school year, covering meals from August and September. Families do not need to be SNAP recipients to be eligible for the program: so far, 50,000 children statewide have received the benefit.
The announcement comes amid reports that Nebraska is now the only state in the U.S. that hasn't extended pandemic SNAP benefits — previously known as food stamps — to its residents, which ended in July. Pressure has also been mounting from some of Nebraska's elected officials to maximize the state's usage of federal pandemic programs. 20 state senators recently penned a letter to Ricketts asking him to immediately reopen P-EBT applications and reinstate expanded emergency SNAP benefits to Nebraskans. "There is no obvious reason why Nebraska is refusing to provide enhanced SNAP benefits," said Sen. John McCollister of Omaha.
On Wednesday, Gov. Pete Ricketts defended the decision, saying he was signaling Nebraska's return to a "more normal life".
"We’ve got the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country," Ricketts remarked. "Our state through the first quarter was the least impacted economically state in the country ... what you want to do is start stepping things down, and this is part of that."
Ricketts added the state is still participating in other federal benefits like FEMA's Lost Wages Assistance program, which adds an extra $300 dollars to unemployment benefits for Nebraskans receiving at least $100 per month.