Thousands of South Carolina’s K-12 students on free or reduced lunch will receive $330 for groceries this month through the state’s federally funded Pandemic EBT program.
Nearly 16,000 students in the Aiken County Public School District qualify for the program, according to the South Carolina Department of Social Services. Eligible students will automatically receive the benefit, and no application is necessary.
All students enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program as of March 13 are eligible, including students attending Aiken County’s 18 schools that provide all students free or reduced lunch. Additionally, students who became eligible after March 13 will receive part of the benefit, according to the DSS website.
Marilyn Matheus, director of media relations for DSS, said the program is meant to help supplement family food costs resulting from school closures and the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as children's nutritional needs.
“Statewide, more than $154 million in federal benefits are expected to be sent out via this program with hopes that these funds will be spent at local grocery and food stores to support our economy,” Matheus said in an email.
Matheus said the $330 is based on a daily rate of $5.70 per child, multiplied by the average number of days school was canceled in South Carolina. The program was authorized by Congress under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, according to a DSS news release.
The purchasing rules for the P-EBT program are the same as the rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, according to the DSS.
Parents or guardians can use the money for fresh, frozen and dry foods, baby formula, non-alcoholic beverages, seeds and plants for growing food, snacks and cooking ingredients.
Eligible families can expect to receive the benefit in one of two ways:
• For families who receive SNAP benefits, the P-EBT money will be available on their regular EBT card on July 7 or the day they normally receive their SNAP funds – whichever comes later, Matheus said.
• For non-SNAP households, the DSS will mail a P-EBT card to the mailing address on file with the school district between July 20 and July 24, Matheus said.
Newly eligible households will not receive their benefit until after July 25, according to DSS.
For more information about the P-EBT program, the DSS has a list of frequently asked questions available online.