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Pandemic EBT cards – not your typical junk mail

SoVaNow.com / June 25, 2020
If you’re in the habit of throwing away your junk mail without looking, you may want to reconsider — especially if students in your household attend Halifax County Public Schools.

Plain white envelopes, bearing the words “return service requested” printed on the front and otherwise easy to confuse for junk mail, contain Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) cards — good for $376 in groceries, per student. The P-EBT card is a temporary food benefit available that offers food assistance for families with children who would be receiving free or reduced-price meals if schools were open.

“Yes, sadly it looks like junk mail, I’ve heard people almost overlooked the benefit card,” said Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg.

The food benefit card “comes in a time of need, and a great resource for families,” said Lineburg.

Because every student in Halifax County Public Schools qualifies for free lunch, due to the county’s socioeconomic status, every student will receive a P-EBT card. (If your student brings meals to school, don’t worry — they will receive the P-EBT food benefits, too.) The swipe cards are issued through the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) to qualifying families.

P-EBT cards may be used to purchase food anywhere that SNAP benefits are accepted, which includes all grocery stores. Benefits are doubled when you shop at local farmers markets in Halifax and South Boston. For example, if you purchase one tomato, you will receive one tomato for free.

There are three options to activate the P-EBT card: call 866-281-2448, go online at the website connectebt.com/, or download the ConnectEBT app on your mobile phone. When prompted, enter the 12 digit EBT card number located on the front of the card, and enter the date of birth of the oldest child receiving free or reduced meals. You will need to enter the date of birth of the oldest child receiving free or reduced meals. Enter 0000 when asked for the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN). If at any time the full SSN is needed, it will be 000-00-0000. Then set up a four-digit pin number you will remember.

You can call the Virginia Department of Social Services at 804-726-7000 if you have questions about participating in the program.

It became possible with Congressional passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the first stimulus program enacted in Washington to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. (It was followed by the much larger, $2 trillion CARES Act.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) are working together to operate the program.

Participation in the P-EBT program is voluntary. If you choose not to participate in the program, dispose of the card by cutting through the magnetic stripe on the card and discarding the card in a secure manner. Only households with qualifying children will receive the cards, and benefits are not transferable.

Qualifying recipients can expect to get one card, with its purchasing power based on the number of students in your home. Benefit levels are pegged at $5.70 per student per day, for up to 66 days of school closure. If your household already receives SNAP food stamp benefits and you have an EBT card, the additional P-EBT benefits will be added to that card in coming days, if it hasn’t happened already.

Oh, by the way — if you believe your family is eligible for P-EBT benefits but you’re worried you may have thrown away your card or lost it somehow, replacement cards are available. You may call 1-866-281-2448 to report your card lost and ask for a replacement; if you have registered through ConnectEBT, you may order your card through your logon; or if you have downloaded the ConnectEBT app on your mobile device you may order after you log on.

A replacement card may take up to seven mailing days to reach you.



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