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Parents of K-12 students in Ohio who receive free or reduced school meals will soon see a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer – or P-EBT – card in the mail.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is sending the P-EBT cards to make up for the 53 days of school breakfasts and lunches students missed out on when the state’s public schools went virtual in March.

Families will receive one card for every student in the free meals program. Each card will have $302 or $231, depending on when the student enrolled in the program.

Millions of newly impoverished people are turning to the charitable organizations known as food banks. Mile-long lines of cars, waiting for bags of free food, have become one of the most striking images of the current economic crisis. Donations are up, too, including from a new billion-dollar government effort called the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

A selection of produce at the Veggie Van in Linden. The project launched this summer, bringing fresh fruit and vegetables to Columbus' food deserts.
Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Many people have turned to online ordering to make grocery shopping safer during the pandemic. But that option isn’t available for SNAP or food stamp recipients, who can only use their benefits in person. 

Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the country, will phase out the use of plastic bags in its stores by 2025.
Rogelio V. Solis / AP

Families that are part of their school district's free or reduced-price meal programs will soon receive assistance to help buy food through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, which just received federal approval.

Food stamp recipients in Ohio won’t need to worry about renewals for their benefits — at least not for the next few months.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week issued a waiver to the state allowing an extension for select benefit recertifications and renewals.

Any Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients whose benefits are set to expire in March, April or May of 2020 won’t need to seek recertification until six months later.

Medicaid renewals are also suspended for 180 days. Recipients won’t lose coverage during that time.

President Trump signed a second coronavirus emergency aid package into law Wednesday evening, after it passed with overwhelming support from the Senate.

The legislation follows a first emergency funding bill, which allocated roughly $8 billion for coronavirus prevention, preparation and response efforts.

A federal judge has issued an injunction blocking the Trump administration from adopting a rule change that would force nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The rule change was set to take effect April 1.

In a ruling issued Friday evening in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.

A Columbus grocery store has some empty space in the paper products aisle. Some stores are reporting items selling out or shortages of some items, such as hand sanitizer.
Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

As the coronavirus spreads, people are being urged to prepare by stocking up on food and supplies, checking to see if they can work from home if schools and workplaces are shut down, and staying home if they’re sick. But these aren’t options for many lower-income people in Ohio.

Two pending rule changes meant to reduce what the Trump administration calls abuse of federal benefit programs could also mean hundreds of thousands of children lose access to free school meals.

Changes to regulations of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will soon take away benefits for thousands of Ohioans.

At least 29 counties are losing access to a waiver that makes the benefits more accessible. In those counties alone, about 20,000 people will lose food assistance benefits completely, said Loren Anthes, public policy fellow for the Center for Community Solutions.

Just 13 Ohio counties will be eligible for a waiver for heightened Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) requirements in the face of a federal rule change beginning in April.

That’s compared to 42 counties with a waiver now.

Federal regulations require able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) to work, go to school, get work training or volunteer for 20 hours a week to qualify for food assistance. Otherwise, they can only receive SNAP benefits for three months out of every three years.

Some low-income college students are among the 688,000 food stamp recipients projected to lose benefits as a result of a Trump administration rule announced Dec. 4.

SNAP benefits sign
USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

Leaders in the Ohio Senate had a last-minute change of heart on a bill, SB165, to require Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards to include a photo ID. It’s been tabled until the new year.

Elsa Pearson, MPH, is a senior policy analyst at Boston University School of Public Health. She's on Twitter @epearsonbusph.

The closest grocery store is a few miles away and your paycheck doesn't clear until Friday. You even skipped lunch. With no car, only a few dollars and kids at home, you decide dinner will have to, yet again, be the local fast-food restaurant within walking distance. It's cost-effective, but you're already bracing for the "healthy weight" conversation at the pediatrician's next month.

A grocery store that accepts SNAP benefits.
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

The White House is going forward with a rule that will make it harder for Ohioans in low-income counties to get food stamp benefits. The rule eliminates the ability for states to request waivers on work requirements for counties with high unemployment rates.

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