Friday, June 12, 2020

Kids Find Out There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch

EBT Cards For Kids - Click To Enlarge
Across America, kids are receiving Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards in their names. Each card will be loaded with around $365. This is meant to provide these young people who would otherwise have access to free or reduced-price meals when schools are open with a "free lunch." The school system here where I live in Indiana and the School District of Philadelphia are just two of the districts busy reminding parents that help with summertime meals is on the way to their mailboxes.

In many school districts, all students will be receiving a card. This is being done so they will have access to meals during the summer. These are going out to both young children and high school students. If a child in Pre-K happens to be in a grade school participating in the federal free and reduced lunch program the child is included in this program and will be eligible to receive this benefit. Both the children and parents can thank the wisdom of lawmakers for this benefit while those concerned about the exploding national deficit are left to pray it will be properly used.  

There are no income requirements in areas where a high percentage of district families are low-income because it means the entire district qualifies for free or reduced-price meals. Apparently, even the legal status of the child does not affect eligibility for P-EBT. School-aged children who are undocumented non-citizens enrolled in a free/reduced lunch school program need not worry, they receive the P-EBT benefits. Any child that receives free/reduced lunch qualifies. There are no other filtered criteria. This means many school systems are busy letting parents know that help with summertime meals is on the way to their mailboxes.

Families can use the P-EBT benefit to purchase food items at EBT authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores. Many gas stations also accept EBT, but you can only use your benefits to pay for specific items. If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, you can purchase food items such as cereal, dairy products, snacks, and candy, but you can’t buy prepared foods, toiletries, over-the-counter medicine, alcohol, or tobacco. Unused benefits will rollover month-to-month and must be used within 365 days. The theory is that families that don't need the benefit can simply return it.

 A lot of questions may arise concerning who will get these cards and how they will be used.  Such as, if a child's issued P-EBT card has their other parent’s name on it but you have custody of the child and that is the child's address of record with the school, you can use it for the child? The answer is yes. As to the ID requirement for using the P-EBT card at the grocery store, the Grocery Retailers Association is aware of the process for P-EBT and have been informed of the card design as well as benefit projections. By federal statute, retailers cannot ask for ID for EBT purchases if they do not request ID on regular debit card purchases.

Another Program Ripe For Abuse
During the covid-19 pandemic, many schools and groups have tried to get food to hungry children but they have failed in their efforts. Many areas used a special waiver issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to modify the Summer Food Service Program and offer grab-and-go meals. Under this plan, families were allowed to pick up packaged meals on behalf of their children at school and in other non-congregate settings. Cities nationwide adopted this model, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and Cleveland. Sadly, parents wouldn't even bother to pick up the meals.

This leaves many of us wondering how many kids are really sitting at home with nothing to eat. At times it seems the government is bending over backward to spend money where it does not need to be spent. The quality of what some may think is a free lunch  has yet to be determined. When all is said and done it is easy to see this program is ripe for abuse. These cards are good as gold and could even be sold at a discount for cash. Considering how many children in this country are obese, it is likely a great deal of soda pop, chips, candy, and cookies will be bought with EBT cards.

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