By WECT Staff | April 29, 2021 at 11:58 AM EDT – Updated April 29 at 6:24 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) – The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced it is expanding eligibility for food assistance benefits to help college students who are struggling to purchase food and stay in school during the pandemic.
Some college students in North Carolina are now eligible to receive assistance through the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) program under this temporary change of benefits approved by the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced this additional assistance for college students and institutions through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) grants program. The additional assistance provides ongoing relief from the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 and will be in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted.
To be eligible, students must have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and have documentation of an estimated family contribution of $0 on their federal student aid determination or eligibility for work study.
The Department of Education has begun the process of reaching out to college students to make them aware of the temporary change.
“Reducing food insecurity, especially during this pandemic, is a top priority for the department,” said Susan Gale Berry, the chief deputy secretary for Opportunity and Well-Being for NCDHHS. “These benefits will help our college students stay in school and be able to safely get proper nutrition needed to learn and thrive.”
Eligible students who have applied for FNS benefits will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card, that can be used to purchase food at a grocery store, farmers markets or online through Amazon, Walmart, Aldi, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Carli C’s and Publix.
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