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Eligible students will receive about $300 on EBT cards

West Virginia is among 24 states so far where qualifying children can receive EBT cards this summer to help offset food costs, but parents don’t have to accept the money.

All Preston County students are eligible for the program because the whole county qualifies for free school breakfasts and lunches. Counties where 50% or more of students qualify for free or reduced lunches will get the money.

Monongalia is one of two counties in the state (Putnam is the other) that do not qualify countywide, said Mon County Schools Nutrition Director Brian Kiehl.

“In our county, most will not get it,” Kiehl said.

Some families are commenting on social media that they don’t need the money and can it be redirected to those who do, returned or used to purchase food that can be donated?

Christy Day, executive director for the Office of Communications for the State Department of Education, said that, “If someone receives the card and they do not want it, they will be instructed (with information sent with the card) to not activate it, but instead to destroy it and discard. The card cannot be donated to another person, and it cannot be donated to a food bank.”

West Virginia was approved for the program earlier in May. State schools Superintendent Clayton Burch said about 231,000 kids are eligible, at about $300 per card per child.

The amount is figured based on children being out of school from March 13 to the end of school, missing breakfasts and lunches at school each of those days.

The payments are to be made even if the students were receiving the meals delivered by schools weekly. Both Preston and Monongalia counties are delivering more than 20,000 meals each week, while schools are closed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), a one-time initiative, was authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures.

Under the act, states can submit a plan to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for providing these benefits to SNAP (the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures.

State agencies may operate Pandemic EBT when a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation, during which the school would otherwise be in session, according to the USDA.

In Mon County, any student already getting benefits through the Department of Health and Human Resources or who completed an application to get free and reduced price lunches and were approved will get the new benefit.

“Children in households with incomes below 130% of the poverty level or those receiving SNAP or TANF qualify for free meals. Those with family incomes between 130 and 185% of the poverty line qualify for reduced-price meals,” according to Feeding America.

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