RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Another round of Pandemic-EBT benefits will be released on Thursday, Aug. 25, according to the Virginia Department of Social Services.
In a press release on Tuesday, VDSS said a one-time summer payment of $391 per eligible student will be uploaded retroactively on previously issued P-EBT or SNAP EBT cards.
The agency said eligible households that don’t have a card should request a new one by calling 1-866-281-2448 or filling out the online inquiry form. After that, one should be mailed to the address provided by their school within seven to ten days of benefit issuance, according to the press release.
Asked why summer payments are just going out now, VDSS’s Associate Director of Benefit Programs Jen Cooper said it took time to obtain approval and operationalize the program.
“I believe we worked as fast as we could given our current limitations and the approval process,” Cooper said.
As food insecurity remains a challenge, VDSS said the additional P-EBT benefits will provide roughly $276 million in assistance to more than 700,000 students.
Tammy Olszewski is expecting to get more than $1,000 to help feed three kids. She said it’s a big help as she grapples with higher prices at the grocery store.
“I’ll be able to sleep at night. It’s going to make a huge difference,” Olszewski said.
The temporary assistance is available for all school-age children who were eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the 2021-2022 school year or attended a school approved to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision.
VDSS recently received federal approval for the summer meal assistance but the state has yet to receive guidance for P-EBT during the 2022-2023 school year.
“It’s important that we get that information as soon as possible and we just don’t have it right now,” Cooper said. “There is no expectations of what it is going to be because it has changed so much.”
Meanwhile, the federal government is changing how expired or unused benefits are handled. Benefits will now expire on SNAP EBT or P-EBT cards after nine months of no spending activity, rather than after one year of inactivity.
Cooper said VDSS sends a warning letter 30 days before these expungements start. She said they otherwise rely on local education authorities and other community partners to notify parents about new benefits.
Olszewski said she previously lost much-needed money because no one from the state or the school district notified her that more P-EBT benefits had been uploaded on her old card. She said she isn’t eligible for SNAP and had no reason to expect additional money.
“I just feel like that was not right. If you’re going to give people money, you need to notify them,” Olszewski said. “I’m sure I’m not the only person.”
It’s not clear how big the problem may be. The United States Department of Agriculture didn’t answer questions on Tuesday about how much money allocated for P-EBT was sent back to the federal government after not being used and whether parents in that situation have any recourse.
Cooper said, “At this point, I don’t think there is anything they can do to get those benefits back.”
Households that do not qualify for P-EBT benefits and are in need of additional food resources may be eligible for assistance through the following community-based resources:
- The USDA National Hunger Hotline, operated by Hunger Free America, also assists families with food assistance for their children. The Hotline connects callers with emergency food providers in their community as well as through government assistance programs and various social services. For more information, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) (en Español).
- SNAP households can also utilize the Virginia Fresh Match program, which matches SNAP benefits dollar-for-dollar when purchasing fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets and neighborhood grocery stores. A list of participating outlets can be found by using the interactive map located on their webpage
- The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program helps eligible seniors get locally grown fruit, vegetables, and herbs while supporting local farmers and farmer’s markets in Virginia. Contact a local operations center here.
- The Federation of Virginia Food Banks utilizes partnerships across the state to provide a healthier, food secure Virginia. Use the Virginia Food Bank Locator to find a food bank near you.
- 2-1-1 Virginia is also available to individuals or families in need of additional food or other resources. Call 2-1-1 or visit the 211 website for information on available programs.
For more guidance on P-EBT visit PebtVA.com or contact the P-EBT Call Center at 1-866-513-1414 (Toll-Free) or 804-294-1633 (7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday – Friday).