Low-income families of public school students who missed out on free school meals in August and September, when campuses remained closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, will receive a second round of funding to replace the food aid, the state Human Services and Public Education Departments announced Monday.

Nearly 244,000 students who qualify for federal free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch — more than 70 percent of public school students statewide — will receive more than $45 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program. That means each child will receive about $185.

In the first round of the federal program, the state distributed more than $104 million in May to families of almost 350,000 children — or about $300 per child — for meals missed from March 16, when the pandemic prompted school closures, until June 19.

The P-EBT program is aiding thousands of children in Santa Fe. Veronica García, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, said the benefit, which comes to $5.86 per child per day, will directly reach families in a way the district’s meal distribution programs have not.

“The participation in our meal programs during the pandemic has not been what I’d like it to be. Access to hot meals and salad bars is one of the reasons I want to bring kids back,” García said, referring to a plan to reopen elementary schools on a hybrid model, which would combine in-person learning on campus with remote learning at home.

The district now serves an average of 829 free lunches and breakfasts each day through campus distribution efforts and along bus routes.

“Last year at the same time, we were doing an average of 7,111 meals per day for lunch and 2,749 breakfasts,” García said.

Still, she said, the federal aid will help families struggling for food.

“This will help get money directly to families,” Garcia said. “This is cash in their pockets.”

Two-thirds of recipients, who already received a P-EBT card, should receive the new benefit in early October, while other families will have to wait to be issued a card, which could take several weeks, according to a news release from the Human Services Department.

The benefit is distributed to families regardless of immigration status.

Under federal guidelines, if qualifying students don’t have access to school meals for five straight days, they are eligible for the benefit.

For more information about the benefit, call the Human Services Department at 800-283-4465 or the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Hotline at 505-660-4822.

(4) comments

Chris Mechels

Feeding needy school kids is one thing. Feeding ALL school kids, so that the needy kids won't be "shamed" is ridiculous. Now, paying those school kids we don't feed, is insane. Like paying our government their full salaries to stay home.

Covid has exposed our insanity; our idiocy. Our "government" isn't.

Brad Doubles

Another clear example of government overreach and waste. It is not the responsibility of the taxpayer to feed all of these children. That would be the responsibility of the parents. Pandemic aside, this happens all over the country on a daily basis. Please people, refrain from procreating if you are not willing to do what it takes to raise them right.

Alan Lucero

At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

"You wish to be anonymous?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

Brad Doubles

Just like a liberal to take a common sense comment and rebut with fantasy....lol

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