- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new $90 million program to reimburse families of Mississippi children who usually receive subsidized meals at school but missed out on the benefit due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program will provide assistance to families of approximately 340,980 students eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school, Mississippi Department of Human Services spokesman Danny Blanton said Wednesday.

On average, families will receive around $5.40 per student, per day of missed meals, Blanton said. Payments will be retroactive from March 19, the day schools closed due to the pandemic in Mississippi, through the end of the school year in late May. The initiative is funded through a federal COVID-19 relief package.

The disbursement of benefits and payments should begin in two to three weeks, according to the Department of Human Services. Families currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will automatically receive benefits through their electronic benefits transfer cards. Families not in the SNAP program will receive an EBT card in the mail. Schools will provide the state with a list of eligible students for the allocation of benefits.

For the 2019-20 school year, 74% of children in participating schools in Mississippi received free or reduced-price lunch.

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