COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) South Carolina received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a new program to help supplement family food costs that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, and prolonged school closures.
The Pandemic EBT program (P-EBT) was authorized by Congress in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020.
With prolonged school closures, children have been eating meals at home that would have otherwise been provided at school. This has created concerns about families' food and financial security - especially during the pandemic.
"We know that schools in South Carolina do more than educate children; they provide them nutritious meals that many families depend on. Even during ordinary summers, many families struggle to keep children fed,” said DSS State Director Michael Leach. “Since schools closed much sooner due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have lost access to a vital food resource.”
The South Carolina Department of Social Services and the South Carolina Department of Education are partnering to identify students eligible for free or reduced-price (FRP) meals to ensure families receive the assistance without having to apply for it.
“No child in South Carolina should have to go hungry,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “The Pandemic EBT program will help ensure our most vulnerable students and their families have the resources needed to put food on the table during the summer so they are healthy and ready to learn when schools re-start in the fall.”
According to federal guidelines, the benefit amount for each child is based on a daily rate of $5.70 multiplied by the number of school days canceled. 58 school days were canceled in South Carolina, meaning each child who enrolled in a FRP meal program in March will receive $330.
Through the program, as many as 467,000 K-12 students in the state who qualify for FRP meals are expected to receive the benefit.
“This might be the only way some of our most vulnerable children can obtain a nutritious breakfast or lunch and DSS appreciates the support of Congress, our Governor’s Office and the SC Department of Education to implement the program in our state,” Leach said.
SNAP households with qualifying child(ren) will automatically receive their P-EBT benefit on their regular EBT card on July 7 or their normal monthly SNAP issuance date - whichever is later.
DSS expects to begin mailing new P-EBT cards to the home addresses of children enrolled in the FRP meals program who are not receiving SNAP benefits on July 20.
Food purchasing with the P-EBT benefit is subject to the same restrictions as an EBT card. They may be used at any store that accepts SNAP.
Recipients have one full year to use the benefit before it expires. Receipt of the P-EBT does not preclude participation in summer feeding programs or other community-based food programs for children and families.
For more information on the program, click here.
Families that qualify for a P-EBT benefit, but don't receive a card in the mail should email PEBTBenefits@dss.sc.gov.