CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved West Virginia’s application for Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) cards to support child nutrition needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the direction of Governor Jim Justice, the joint request was recently submitted by the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR).
P-EBT was introduced in H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as a solution that delivers nutrition assistance on an EBT card that can be used to purchase groceries for families with school children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals when school is out of session due to a pandemic. If a child already qualified for free or reduced-price meals, or attends a Community Eligibility Provision school where everyone receives meals at no cost, no action is needed to receive the P-EBT benefit. Parents and guardians who care for school-age students who do not receive free or reduced-price school meals may apply for inclusion in this group by applying at https://www.schoolcafe.com/.
“We are grateful beyond belief to have this federal support to make sure our kids’ needs are being met during this pandemic,” Governor Justice said. “Making sure every single one of our kids in West Virginia has enough to eat is one of my top priorities. The minute we realized we had to shut down our schools, I went to work with our education leaders and put a plan in action that is now providing over 1 million meals a week to children statewide.”
The implementation of P-EBT is in line with the Governor’s commitment to keep West Virginians safe, secure and healthy during this national emergency and to keep children fed when schools are closed. P-EBT provides households an EBT card with the value of the free school breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates for the days that schools are closed. The P-EBT cards can be used everywhere that SNAP EBT is used. The WVDE will continue working with counties to maintain delivery of multi-day meal packs to meet the nutritional needs of all West Virginia children.
“Since the start of this pandemic, the WVDE has worked with county school systems to ensure no child is forgotten and no family has the added stress of food insecurity,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, W. Clayton Burch. “We are hopeful the addition of the P-EBT cards will be an added support for families, and are grateful for the continued combined efforts of our counties and partners.”
The P-EBT benefits will be issued in two waves. The first wave will reach students who receive SNAP, West Virginia WORKS (WV WORKS), or Medicaid benefits through the DHHR. For students who are currently receiving SNAP or West Virginia WORKS benefits, the benefits will be deposited into the household’s EBT card. If a parent or guardian no longer has or has lost their SNAP EBT card, they can contact DHHR at 1-877-716-1212 to request a new card.
The second wave will reach students who do not receive SNAP, WV WORKS, or Medicaid. This group will consist of all other students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals who were not included in the first wave. These P-EBT cards will be issued to the most recent address and guardian name given for the student to the schools. All eligible families are expected to receive the P-EBT benefits before the end of June.
“Hunger is a threat faced by many West Virginians, and one we work daily to prevent,” said DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill J. Crouch. “By partnering with the WVDE, we can accelerate providing financial assistance and support during the pandemic. P-EBT will help assure happier and healthier outcomes for West Virginia families and we are extremely pleased to be part of this effort.”
County school nutrition offices will work directly with families to educate them about the use of the card, and answers to frequently asked questions are posted at wvde.us/COVID19. More than 231,000 children in the Mountain State are eligible for this benefit, and the P-EBT plan estimates more than $72 million in federal dollars will be coming to West Virginia households for use in the local economy.
The WVDE, in partnership with county nutrition directors, the state National Guard, Department of Agriculture, Division of Tourism and other state organizations, has provided approximately 1.4 million meals a week to children in the Mountain State. The introduction of the P-EBT will provide an additional resource to families impacted the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
P-EBT benefits are 100 percent federally funded by the USDA and are designed to reduce hunger and food insecurity through issuing benefits to students who would receive free or reduced price meals under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act if not for school closures. The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
For more information and updates on the coronavirus situation in West Virginia, please visit coronavirus.wv.gov or wvde.us/COVID19.