The last of a pandemic boost to food aid for NM’s youngest children begins

By: - April 24, 2023 3:52 am
Sign about food stamp benefits

(Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

As the federal public health emergency comes to end on May 11, so do expanded food and nutrition benefits. The New Mexico Human Services Department started issuing the last of the pandemic-era boost for children under 6 years old last week.

This last round of Childcare Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) is for children 0-5 years old whose families enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program anytime from August 2022 through next month, when the program expires.

Children will receive $20.95 per month for the 2022 benefits. The amount for those enrolled this year is $24.59 due to the increased cost of food, according to HSD

The agency has begun the distribution of the last bit of Childcare P-EBT last week with those who qualified last August and September receiving those funds by Friday, April 21.

‘Perfect storm’ coming for food insecurity in New Mexico

Director of Income Support Karmela Martinez said around 65,000 New Mexico children will receive the increased food assistance.

“We know that when kids aren’t hungry, they’re happier, they’re healthier, they do better in a preschool environment, daycare environment,” she said.

Those who qualified in October and November of last year will get the boost next month. Martinez said the exact date has yet to be determined.

December and January enrollees will see the funds in June. February and March benefits will be issued in July. And the last payment of the pandemic-era program — for children who qualify this month and the beginning of next — will come in August.

Meanwhile, school-aged children will get their final P-EBT distribution in one chunk over the summer, though HSD says it’s not yet clear when or how much it’ll be for.

HSD said the funds will appear on families’ existing EBT cards as a separate deposit from their SNAP benefits.

As for what happens when this pandemic assistance ends, Martinez pointed to the Healthy Hunger-Free Students Bill of Rights Act recently signed into law as a means for the state to support children experiencing food insecurity. She said HSD will also continue to take advantage of any federal funding that becomes available.

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Nash Jones, KUNM News
Nash Jones, KUNM News

Nash Jones (they/them) grew up in Albuquerque and returned home in 2017 after 11 years away living in Portland, OR, and Oakland, CA. Storytelling and community education have consistently been at the core of Nash’s varied career and are, in part, what brought them to KUNM, first as a volunteer host with Spoken Word Hour and NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday, then as a staff member in the KUNM newsroom, hosting Morning Edition (2018-2021) and reporting. Nash currently hosts NPR's All Things Considered and continues to report for KUNM.