All Richmond County Public School students from kindergarten through 12th grade will receive $376 in SNAP benefits to buy food.

This Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, or P-EBT, is a federal program authorized by the USDA and administered through the state. It’s designed to cover the costs of food for children who would have received reduced or free meals if schools were open. And since RCPS provides free meals to all students regardless of income, all of those students automatically qualify for these funds.

Families don’t need to currently receive SNAP benefits, and they don’t need to apply or take any action. RCPS gave Richmond County Department of Social Services the name and address of every child it has enrolled and DSS has forwarded that information to the state.

Those families with more than one school-age child will receive benefits for each child. If a household already receives SNAP benefits, the P-EBT funds will be added to the current EBT card. Other families will receive their payment on a similar card that’ll be sent in the mail.

The funds can be spent at any retailer that accepts EBT payments and also may be used for online food purchases with Walmart and Amazon. Recipients can use P-EBT funds for any SNAP-approved food, which includes most items, except prepared and hot foods. 

This is a one-time payment, but the funds don’t have to spent all at once. The balance will roll over from month to month for a year. Then, any remaining funds will be taken back.

P-EBT benefits cannot be sold, used by others or donated to anyone. Families that don’t want the money “must destroy the P-EBT card when they receive it,” according to guidelines provided by Richmond County DSS. In the event that a family changes their mind and later wants to access the funds, the benefits will remain available for 365 days.

Households with an open SNAP case, should receive the benefits within the next two to three weeks. If the card has to be mailed, the current projection is that it’ll arrive in four to six weeks, said Vanesa Livingstone, director of Richmond County DSS. And anyone who doesn’t receive the card by the end of June, should call 804-726-7000, she added.

The P-EBT funds will not replace RCPS’ free food program, which offers all students bundles of meals. That program will continue throughout the summer.

Starting this week, deliveries will be reduced from twice weekly to once but “we will maintain the number of meals distributed, approximately 4,000 a week,” said RCPS superintendent Dr. James Smith.

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