One-time payments of $391 for food will be going to eligible children starting the end of March. (Photo by PeopleImages/Getty Images via Canva)

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.

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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 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with service in English, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Somalian, Mandarin and Cantonese. 

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry, Oregon Capital Chronicle

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.