Families of students in Columbus County and Whiteville City school systems will soon receive electronic transfer cards worth approximately $371 per child under the age of 18. The cards will be accepted at grocery stores within the next year.
According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website, all parents need to do to get the free cards is make sure that their local school has their correct mailing address.
“Due to school closures caused by [the] COVID-19 pandemic, these households are now eligible to receive a benefit on an EBT card to help them buy food for their children,” the NCDHHS site says.
Local leaders comment
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program is for families of all children who normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school. All students in the county and city schools receive free school meals under the Community Eligibility Provision.
“The CEP helps provide and encourage good nutrition for all of our students,” said Donna Bartley, the county schools’ child nutrition director. “We are happy that Columbus County Schools participation in this program and the dedication of our school nutrition workers to implement it has resulted in this very important benefit for all of our families.”
“(Families) do not have to apply” for the money, said Marc Whichard, superintendent of Whiteville City Schools. “As a CEP district, it is automatic.”
Watch the mailbox
P-EBT cards will arrive by mail within the next few weeks, with money loaded just as for people already enrolled in the Food and Nutrition Services program. A letter will arrive with the card, instructing the recipient how to activate and use it. Those who do not want to take advantage of the program “should destroy the P-EBT card,” the website says.
Those who are already getting FNS grocery benefits will see the money added automatically to the cards they have.
The money will arrive in two installments about a month apart. For a household with one child, the first installment will be $194 and the second will be $177. For two children, the amounts will be $388 and $353. A household with six children will receive $1,163 and $1,060, according to NCDHHS. Whatever is not spent will remain on the card for 365 days.
“P-EBT is only for children who participate in the national free and reduced lunch program,” which is separate from the USDA Child Nutrition Program-CACFP, the state website says. “Eligibility is pulled from the Department of Public Instruction records from that program. If your children receive free and reduced lunch through an N.C. charter school that participates in the national free and reduced lunch program, they should receive P-EBT benefits.”
“Head Start programs are not included,” said NCDHHS. Some Pre-K students will qualify, depending on whether they are included at “a grade school participating in the federal free and reduced lunch program, and those children in the Pre-K are included in that program.”