Volunteers package meals for Chicago Public School students. Credit: Chicago Mayor's Office

CHICAGO — The deadline to apply for specialty SNAP benefits to help kids eat while schools are closed has been extended through Aug. 31.

The Pandemic EBT SNAP program is designed to support low-income families who rely on schools to provide healthy meals to their students during the school year.

Chicago Public Schools, which will start the upcoming school year with digital-only instruction, has and will continue to give away meal kits containing three breakfasts and three lunches to anyone under 18 throughout the fall, but the SNAP extension will help families throughout the state buy groceries.

To be eligible for the extended SNAP benefits, households must have at least one school-aged child, ages 3-17 or 18-22 (so long as they’re in high school), who would receive a free or reduced lunch under the National School Lunch Program when school is in session.

Unlike regular SNAP benefits, eligibility is not based on household income, resources or citizenship.

Upon approval, families will receive a P-EBT LINK card in the mail with instructions on how to set up a PIN and use the card. Benefits will already be available on the card to make food purchases at most grocery stores.

Families already receiving SNAP benefits do not need to apply and are automatically eligible. Those families can expect to have their P-EBT benefits loaded into their Illinois LINK EBT account in addition to their regular SNAP benefits.

You can apply online at ABE.illinois.gov or mail in a paper application to Central Scan Unit (CSU), P.O. Box 19138, Springfield, IL 62763-9138.

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