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Half of Michigan school children will get coronavirus food cash

 Half of Michigan families with children in K-12 schools will receive extra cash for food through June, as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program, announced Thursday, will send EBT cards (used like debit cards) to families with students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch in their schools. That will get extra food cash into the hands of families of an estimated 750,000 children, out half of the state’s 1.5 million K-12 students.

Families don’t need to sign up for the cards – they’ll arrive in the mail, under the name of the oldest K-12 student in the household.

Families will receive $193.80 total for March and April for each eligible K-12 student, and another $182.40 total for May and June.

The cards will arrive in early May, with instructions for how to activate and use them arriving before then.

Free and reduced lunch eligibility is determined by family income. A family of four is eligible with an annual household income of $47,638 or lower. All students are eligible no matter family income in some high-poverty districts.

EBT cards, also called Bridge Cards, are used by families who receive food assistance. For families already receiving food assistance, the additional funds will be loaded onto their current EBT cards.

“Children should never go hungry. Yet because of COVID-19, it is a risk unlike at any time in generations,” Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement Thursday. 

“I am glad that Michigan will be the first state to deliver [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits to families that previously received free or reduced-price lunches, whether or not they were SNAP-eligible. In a time of terrible need, it will be a small, good thing for nearly a million Michigan children.”

The funds are meant to cover the cost of meals at home that would normally be eaten at school. Michigan schools have been closed since March 16, and will remain closed through the end of the school year.

The program is estimated to cost more than $300 million, and is paid for through federal funds. 

Meanwhile, Michigan schools will continue to offer meals to all children under the age of 18, regardless of free or reduced lunch eligibility, through the end of the school year in June. Some school districts have meal pick-up sites, and others are delivering food along bus routes. You can check with your local school district for services, or find the closest school meal site on this map.

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