Students grab lunch at North Side Independent School District in San Antonio.
Students grab lunch at North Side Independent School District in San Antonio. Photo by Jennifer Whitney for The Texas Tribune

By Stacy Fernandez | The Texas Tribune

Starting Monday, June 1, low-income Texas families can apply for $285 in federal aid per child to make up for the free and reduced-price meals they missed while schools were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Families that were on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in March don’t need to apply for the program known as Pandemic-EBT, short for electronic benefits transfer. These benefits were automatically deposited on their Lone Star Card — the debit-like card Texas uses to distribute SNAP aid — earlier this month.

Other families, including those that enrolled in SNAP after March, have through the month of June to submit applications for the food benefits program.

Here’s what parents and guardians need to know when applying for the benefits.

Who is eligible?

Schoolchildren up to 21 years old who received free or reduced-priced meals at school this school year are eligible for the program.

Although families who receive SNAP automatically got benefits for children 5 to 18 years old, they also have to apply for benefits in June if they have eligible children under 5 years old or between the ages of 19 and 21.

Infants and toddlers are not eligible for Pandemic-EBT. If Congress were to pass the HEROES Act — another multitrillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill — toddlers would be eligible for Pandemic-EBT, and benefits would extend through the summer, said Rachel Cooper, a senior policy analyst with Every Texan, a left-leaning think tank previously known as the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

How much money will my family get?

The program will pay out a lump sum of $285 per eligible child, or about $5.70 to cover both breakfast and lunch for each canceled day of school. Guardians of two kids who missed out on school meals would receive $570 in benefits, guardians of three kids would get $855, and so on. This is a one-time payment.

Once approved, families will get one Texas Pandemic-EBT card in the mail preloaded with funds. The card works just like a debit card but can only be used for food.

Pandemic-EBT follows the same rules as SNAP. Families can’t use either benefit for hot and prepared food, like a hot sandwich meant to be eaten immediately, alcohol or tobacco products. Benefits cannot be used at restaurants.

How do I apply?

School districts should send out a link to the application in the first week of June.

The application is straightforward. Parents and guardians will fill out details like the child’s name, address and school ID, Cooper said.

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When will I get my benefits?

Families should get their Pandemic-EBT cards in the mail within seven to 10 days of submitting their applications as long as the information provided on the online application matches the records submitted by the Texas Education Agency and Texas Department of Agriculture.

If the information doesn’t match, officials will follow up with both departments, which may delay when a family gets its card, said Elliott Sprehe, a spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the department that oversees Pandemic-EBT.

The commission said it will process orders as they come in, once it has a list of the children who get free or reduced-price school meals.

Does Pandemic-EBT affect my ability to get other benefits like unemployment or SNAP?

No. The school meal benefit will not affect eligibility for other benefits.

How long do I have to spend the benefits?

Unused benefits expire after a year.

Is my child still eligible if the school district has continued to provide meals?

Yes, Pandemic-EBT is an additional benefit, not a replacement for programs like grab-and-go school meals or summer meals.

Do you have to be a citizen to get Pandemic-EBT?

No, any child is eligible for the program, regardless of their immigration status or that of their caregiver.

While immigrant families may worry that applying for benefits will hurt their chances to become legal residents under the public charge rule — which penalizes immigrants who’ve used public benefits for a certain period of time — Pandemic-EBT does not count toward that rule.

Does my child qualify if they get free meals at their day care?

Maybe. If the child attends Head Start or a pre-K program that participates in the National School Lunch Program, they are eligible for the food benefits program.

Are kids in charter and private schools eligible?

Yes, as long as the school provided meals through the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Programs.

"Did your child get free or reduced-price school lunches? You may be eligible for $285 in food aid." was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities, now called Every Texan, has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Contact the San Antonio Heron at hello@saheron.com | @sanantonioheron on Twitter | Facebook

By Charlotte-Anne Lucas | NOWCastSA

NOWCastSA made this map so students and families can pick up free meals while San Antonio area schools are closed for the coronavirus pandemic.

Sixteen school districts are offering meals to pick up at curbside locations or at drive throughs and several are using school buses to deliver meals at stops along a route. Each pin on this map gives the hours, the address and a link to more information.
You can also get directions to walk, drive or take public transportation to the site.

Here's how to find your school district's locations on your phone:

» Under the word "Map," tap this box:
» map burger
» Select "Filter"
» Check the box next to your school district,
» Then tap "Map" to get to your very own map.

An aerial view of UTSA’s downtown expansion plan as of May 6, 2019. Courtesy UTSA

Several times this year we’ve requested an interview with UTSA President Taylor Eighmy about the university’s downtown expansion strategy, but, so far, none has been granted.

We didn’t want that to stop us from sharing the latest draft of the plan, which was recently posted on UTSA's website.

[ Click here to view the plan. ]

This version of the plan was presented at a West Side public meeting on May 6.

The plan would quadruple the size of the current campus in 10 years, and eventually serve 10,000 students. It would unfold in two phases—the first phase, which is projected to cost north of $300 million, would include the construction of new schools on Dolorosa Street just south of City Hall.

The expansion is being funded by a combination of public money available to UTSA, including from the UT System Board of Regent’s Permanent University Fund, and some philanthropic help, such as $15 million from philanthropist and developer Graham Weston.

We knew this when UTSA first made the expansion announcement last fall.

What’s new in this latest version of the plan is how the second phase—on property west of the existing university campus footprint currently owned by the city—connects to the near West Side via Buena Vista and West Commerce streets. Buena Vista, in particular, would have a pedestrian bridge that runs level with the vehicular bridge that connects downtown with the West Side.

There also looks to be an elevated park that hangs over a street-level promenade, and basketball courts outside a recreation and wellness center that presumably would be available to West Side residents.

Latest UTSA updated expansion plan shows Buena Vista Street connecting UTSA with the West Side. Courtesy UTSA
The pedestrian bridge bridge next to Buena Vista is highlighted. Courtesy UTSA

The plan references the High Line in New York and Austin's Pfluger Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge as sources of inspiration.

High Line, New York City
Pfluger Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge, Austin

Under the bridge, the plan calls for aesthetic upgrades to provide a more pedestrian friendly connection in the underpass a la Boston's Underground at Ink Block and Toronto's Underpass Park.

Courtesy UTSA
Underground at Ink Block, Boston
Underpass Park, Toronto

The map below shows how the campus would connect to the rest of the West Side, as well as downtown.

Here's how the downtown campus would function in terms of building use.

This diagram below shows the additions around the current downtown campus at Frio and Buena Vista streets, a student housing development north of the campus, and a potential wellness and recreation center.

Courtesy UTSA

West of the current campus, on properties currently owned by the city of San Antonio, there would be academic and student housing buildings.

Courtesy UTSA

It's worth noting the aforementioned plans are preliminary, and would happen as the second half of UTSA's 10-year plan. The city-owned properties are not guaranteed to be owned by UTSA. The transfer of the properties is contingent upon UTSA completing an economic impact study and displacement plan, which the university has tapped The National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders to complete, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said. The city would also have to find homes for the facilities currently on those properties—mainly the Frank D. Wing Municipal Court Building, the San Antonio Fleet Operations and Maintenance building, and a police substation.

East of Interstate 35, in downtown proper, it's a different story. The expansion's first phase is expected to unfold the next few years. It shows the new School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center, and the College of Business, relocated from the main campus. The latest draft also shows housing on Santa Rosa Avenue between Dolorosa and Nueva streets. And the former Continental Hotel property on West Commerce Street north of the building cluster is slated to become housing for university faculty and staff.

Courtesy UTSA

Read more about UTSA's expansion:

» UTSA has more up its sleeve for downtown campus

» City Council approves sale of Dolorosa properties for UTSA expansion

» Anticipating UTSA’s impact on the historic West Side

» Cattleman’s Square Lofts would add affordable apartments near UTSA’s expansion

» Weston Urban purchases iconic Toudouze building, eyes synergy with UTSA expansion

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

Tayari Jones (from top left, clockwise), Lila Cockrell, Jose Antonio Vargas, Lawrence Wright, Meg Medina, and Rick Bragg are among the 100 participants of the 2019 San Antonio Book Festival. COURTESY PHOTOS

Another eclectic lineup of authors is slated for this year's San Antonio Book Festival, which is scheduled for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 6 at the Central Library, 600 Soledad St., and the neighboring Southwest School of Art.

The 7th annual festival will feature some well-known national authors, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg ("The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table"), novelist Tayari Jones ("An American Marriage"), young adult fiction author and Newbery Medal winner Meg Medina ("Merci Suárez Changes Gears"), Pulitzer Prize-winning author and The New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright ("God Save Texas:A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State"), and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and immigration rights advocate Jose Antonio Vargas ("Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen").

Notable local authors include former Mayor Lila Cockrell ("Love Deeper Than a River: My Life in San Antonio"), Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff ("The Changing Face of San Antonio: An Insider’s View of an Emerging International City"), and Michael Cirlos, who's "Humans of San Antonio" portrait collection was largely shot on downtown streets.

Also, San Antonio-born actor Henry Thomas of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" fame will debut his first fantasy novel, "The Window and the Mirror: Oesteria and the War of Goblinkind Series."

More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the daylong series of panel discussions, book sales, autograph sessions, children's activities and food trucks.

Here's a list of all the participants:

Camille Acker, "Training School for Negro Girls"

Reniqua Allen, "It Was All A Dream: A New Generation Confronts the Broken Promise to Black America"

Cristela Alonzo, "Untitled Memoir"

Laurie Halse Anderson, "Shout"

Julissa Arce, "Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream"

Chris Barton, "What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan"

Sarah Bird, "Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen"

David Bowles, "They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems; Ghosts of the Rio Grande Valley"

Rick Bragg, "The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table"

H.W. Brands, "Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants"

Marie Brenner, "A Private War: Marie Colvin and Other Tales of Heroes, Scoundrels, and Renegades

Douglas Brinkley, "American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race"

Tiffany Brownlee, "Wrong in All the Right Ways"

Catherine Burns, "The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible"

Edward Carey, "Little: A Novel"

Oscar Cásares, "Where We Come From: A Novel"

Jared Chapman, "T. Rex Time Machine"

Ron Chernow, "Grant"

Carina Chocano, "You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages"

Michael Cirlos, "Humans of San Antonio"

Lila Banks Cockrell, "Love Deeper Than a River: My Life in San Antonio"

Carolyn Cohagan, "Time Next"

Ingrid Rojas Contreras, "Fruit of the Drunken Tree: A Novel"

Alfredo Corchado, "Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration"

Christopher Paul Curtis, "The Journey of Little Charlie"

Tracy Daugherty, "Leaving the Gay Place: Billy Lee Brammer and the Great Society"

Tania de Regil, "A New Home / Un nuevo hogar"

Andre Dubus III, "Gone So Long"

Glory Edim, "Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves"

Helen Ellis, "Southern Lady Code: Essays"

Val Emmich, "Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel"

Melissa Febos, "Abandon Me: Memoirs; contributor, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence"

Michele Filgate, "What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence"

Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III, "A Rock Between Two Rivers: Fracturing a Texas Family Ranch"

Carolyn Dee Flores, "The Amazing Watercolor Fish / El asombroso pez acuarela"

Fernando A. Flores, "Tears of the Trufflepig: A Novel"

Ben Fountain, "Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution"

Carrie Fountain, "I’m Not Missing"

Ron Franscell, "Alice & Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story"

Hector A. Garcia, "Sex, Power, and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense of Our Political Divide"

Xavier Garza, "Just One Itsy Bitsy Little Bite/Sólo una mordadita chiquitita; Vincent Ventura and the Mystery of the Chupacabras/Vincent Ventura y el misterio del chupacabras"

Amy Gentry, "Last Woman Standing: A Novel of Suspense"

Reyna Grande, "A Dream Called Home: A Memoir"

Jean Guerrero, "Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir"

Tayari Jones, "An American Marriage"

Steven G. Kellman, "American Suite"

John Langmore, "Open Range: America’s Big-Outfit Cowboy"

Joe R. Lansdale, "Terror Is Our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors; The Elephant of Surprise: A Hap and Leonard Novel"

Kasey Lansdale, "Terror is Our Business: Dana Roberts’ Casebook of Horrors"

Ariel Lawhon, "I Was Anastasia: A Novel"

Marjorie Herrera Lewis, "When the Men Were Gone: A Novel"

Steve Luxenberg, "Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation"

Beth Macy, "Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America"

Monica Muñoz Martinez, "The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas"

Paloma Martinez-Cruz, "Food Fight!: Millennial Mestizaje Meets the Culinary Marketplace"

Elizabeth McCracken, "Bowlaway"

Bernice L. McFadden, "Praise Song for the Butterflies"

Meg Medina, "Merci Suárez Changes Gears"

Susan Meissner, "The Last Year of the War: A Novel"

Tehlor Kay Mejia, "We Set the Dark on Fire"

Anna Merlan, "Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power"

Char Miller, "San Antonio: A Tricentennial History"

Pat Mora, "Encantado: Desert Monologues"

Yuyi Morales, "Dreamers"

Barbara Morgan, "On Story: The Golden Ages of Television"

David Norman, "South of Hannah"

Paul Noth, "How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth"

Michael Nye, "My Heart is Not Blind: On Blindness and Perception"

José Olivarez, "Citizen Illegal"

Susan Page, "The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty"

John Parra, "Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community"

Maya Perez, "On Story: The Golden Ages of Television"

Jewell Parker Rhodes, "Ghost Boys"

Jay B. Sauceda, "A Mile Above Texas"

Leslie Contreras Schwartz, "Nightbloom & Cenote"

Andrew Selee, "Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together"

Elaine Shannon, "Hunting LeRoux: The Inside Story of the DEA Takedown of a Criminal Genius and His Empire"

Beowulf Sheehan, "Author: The Portraits of Beowulf Sheehan"

Charles J. Shields, "The Man Who Wrote the Perfect Novel: John Williams, “Stoner,” and the Writing Life"

Aaron Shulman, "The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain’s Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War"

ire’ne lara silva, "Cuicacalli: House of Song"

Octavio Solis, "Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border"

W.K. Stratton, "The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film"

W.F. Strong, "Stories from Texas: Some of Them Are True"

Mathangi Subramanian, "A People’s History of Heaven: A Novel"

Mimi Swartz, "Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart"

Carmen Tafolla, "The Amazing Watercolor Fish / El asombroso pez acuarela"

Michael Taylor, "The Financial Rules for New College Graduates"

Henry Thomas, "The Window and the Mirror: Oesteria and the War of Goblinkind Series"

Helen Thompson, "Texas Made/Texas Modern: The House and the Land"

Helen Thorpe, "The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom"

David Treuer, "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present"

Natalia Treviño, "VirginX"

Jose Antonio Vargas, "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen"

Susan Verde, "Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community"

Raymond A. Villarreal, "A People's History of the Vampire Uprising: A Novel"

Bryan Washington, "Lot: Stories"

Katharine Weber, "Still Life with Monkey"

Marion Winik, "The Baltimore Book of the Dead"

Nelson W. Wolff, "The Changing Face of San Antonio: An Insider’s View of an Emerging International City"

Lawrence Wright, "God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State"

Jennifer Ziegler, "Revenge of the Teacher’s Pets: The Brewster Triplets Want an A for Effort"

Thomas Zigal, "Outcry Witness"

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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