BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — To better provide financial assistance amid the pandemic, a federal program through the California Department of Social Services aimed to help families whose students were not able to attend in-person learning due to COVID-19 school closures.
Some families may have received a Pandemic EBT Card. However, not every family received one of these cards and some who have received one didn't necessarily qualify for it.
“I don’t get food stamps on a regular basis so it was a help when we got them," Amy Kramer said.
Amy Kramer is a mom of two boys. She says her family doesn't qualify for food stamps but received the P-EBT cards in the mail.
“It was an extra big boost like that was needed, it was really needed. Now it's even more needed this time around than last year, you know with the price of everything that’s going on in the store right now its crazy," Kramer said.
The program started to help families in need, those who receive federal assistance, CalFresh food benefits, or free and reduced lunches.
However, students who attend Kern County CEP Schools also receive the card regardless of financial need.
Jennifer Irvin with the Panama Buena Vista Union School Distict says CEP stands for Community Eligibility Provision.
“Those schools have to have 62.5% of the enrolled students, have to be receiving state or local programs through CalFresh or CalWORKS and then the entire school qualifies for it," Irvin said.
In other schools that don't fall under CEP, only students who are eligible for financial assistance will receive a card which leaves other families to receive nothing.
“We know that they qualify we don’t necessarily know we don’t have numbers of who has taken advantage of it," Irvin said.
The California Department of Social Services says families can decline the P-EBT benefits by destroying the card before using it.
The Department says if you do need it: “P-EBT benefits can be used like CalFresh to buy food. P-EBT cards are accepted at most grocery stores, farmers markets, and online at Amazon or other retailers. Foods that are served hot or already prepared are not covered. You cannot use your benefits are restaurants."
Payments for October 2020 through January 2021 will be reloaded this September through November. Payments for February 2021 through May 2021 will be reloaded around the end of November.
Irvin says P-EBT is a federal program but the school districts make sure the families have the resources they need.
“We want our students and our community to be taken care of," Irvin said.
Kramer says she is grateful for the money.
“With those cards coming, it was a major help and it’s so well needed like especially for people like us who don’t get them regularly. You know that’s where it was really like yes, thank you," Kramer said.
You don't need to apply to receive a card. P-EBT cards are automatically sent to eligible families based on information provided to other programs.