TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) The Tennessee Department of Human Services created a new program in light of COVID-19 to help those who are food insecure, and now struggling more because of the pandemic.
An “EBT card” helps families by giving them government assistance, in the form of money on a card that can be used to purchase food. The newly established “Pandemic-EBT” program helps both families who already receive SNAP or free/reduced school lunch, and now also families who have never received government help before.
The P-EBT is reaching families who are having a hard time feeding their children, due to the loss of jobs and uncertainty amid the pandemic.
“Prior to, we already were seeing a high food insecurity rate in our region,” says Ronda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.
Chafin reports that the pandemic has made food insecurity in our region even higher.
“In our history, looking back on the numbers of people we serve, from the beginning to now, we have not seen these numbers before. We have not seen the amount of food distributed as we have now,” said Chafin.
Their distribution of food has grown by 40 percent since March. Chafin says federal aid programs like the P-EBT are a first line of defense for families in need.
“There’s a huge number of families with children that are eligible that haven’t taken advantage of this benefit,” said Chafin.
Families who receive SNAP benefits already qualify for P-EBT, and the money will be added to their existing EBT cards. For families who are not currently receiving help, applying for the P-EBT is simple.
The deadline has been extended twice by TDHS to make sure everyone who qualifies knows the help is there.
“Providing parents and children with the resources they need now will help build a thriving Tennessee when the COVID-19 pandemic ends,” TDHS commissioner Danielle W. Barnes said in a statement to News Channel 11.
The assistance is $5.70 per child, per day, which totals to an average of $250 a month per child. The card can be used to purchase food at any establishment that accepts EBT.
Second Harvest is encouraging anyone in the region who needs help, to apply. Their food bank is working over-time to make sure local families and children do not go hungry.
“We are setting records every day the number of people we are serving, the number of pounds of food and meals we are distributing,” said Chafin. “So many individuals of different walks of life that have not asked for food before that are displaced or have lost their jobs.”
HOW TO APPLY: Visit this link on the TDHS website to create an account, or log in to an existing account. There you can apply to see if you qualify for benefits.
The deadline to apply for P-EBT is now Monday, July 27 at 4:30 p.m. central time.
Anyone needing assistance completing their P-EBT application or have general questions about the program are encouraged to call the TDHS hotline at 1-833-496-0661 and select option 3.