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Hundreds of dollars in food assistance available for qualifying South Carolina families

If your child receives free or reduced-price meals at school, you may be eligible for hundreds of dollars in food benefits.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — If your child receives free or reduced-price meals at school, you could be eligible for hundreds of dollars in food benefits.

According to the State Department of Social Services (DSS), federal funds are now available for the Summer K-12 Pandemic EBT Program, providing a one-time payment of $375 per qualifying child.

"This is really designed to help provide food benefits to children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced priced meals," Connelly-Anne Ragley, a spokesperson for the department, said. "In this case, because of summertime and students are not in the classroom.”

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The funds took a while to come into the state, but now K-12 students who would have received meals under the National School Lunch Program over the summer are eligible.

This includes: 

  • Students who received P-EBT benefits during the last month of the 2020- 2021 school year. Because the covered summer period is an extension of the school year, this includes students who graduated. 
  • Students who were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Program during the 2020-21 school year but did not receive P-EBT benefits in the last month of the school year because they attended school in-person. 
  • Students who are determined newly eligible for free or reduced-price school meals during the covered summer period. This would include students who submitted meal applications during the summer months. These meal applications will not be processed until late August 2021. If a student is determined newly eligible for free or reduced-price school meals during the covered summer period, P-EBT cards are expected to be mailed out on or before September 27, 2021. 

 Who is NOT eligible for Summer K-12 P-EBT? 

  • Students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals or not enrolled in schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program. 
  • Students who were homeschooled for the 2020-21 school year. 

As important note, this program is for the previous school year and summer, not the current one.

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"You will receive an individual card for each child," Ragley said, "or if you have an existing PEBT card, say you’ve received some of these benefits in the past, you will receive a payment for each child on each of the child’s cards.”

According to Ragley, there is no application process for this benefit. Eligible families can expect the funds over the next two weeks.

Those with questions can call the department's general information line at 803-898-7601 (press 0), or view the program frequently asked questions here. Parents are asked to read the FAQ's first before calling the general information line.

Families can also check the status of their child's P-EBT benefits by visiting DSS online.