TAYLOR COUNTY—Families in Taylor County will receive some assistance feeding their children this summer, thanks to the smart thinking of Taylor County School’s Director of Child Nutrition.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the issuance of Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) funds, and parents and guardians of Taylor County students will soon be receiving some added money to help offset the costs of purchasing groceries.
Students who qualify for free or reduced-priced school meals through the National School Lunch Program, and who opted in to an in-person learning curriculum will receive the funding.
Here in Taylor County, all students qualified, thanks to the hard work and diligence of Taylor County School’s Director of Child Nutrition Donnette Nines and the Taylor County Board of Education.
“I am proud that Taylor County Schools will be participating in the CEP program to help meet a crucial need for many students in our county,” said Christy Miller, Superintendent of Taylor County schools. “We know academic achievement increases when our students are well fed and ready to learn, and we must provide secure and reliable access to nutritious meals so all students have a chance to achieve at the highest level possible.”
The CEP serves as an alternative to collecting, approving and verifying household eligibility applications for free and reduced price eligible students in high poverty local education agencies.
According to Nines, If at least 40 percent of a school’s student population is directly certified for free meal benefits, the entire school qualifies for the option.
Anna Jarvis Elementary School, Flemington Elementary School and Taylor County Middle School students were already set to receive the status, however Nines wanted to ensure all students were provided the same opportunity, so she set to work figuring out how to add Grafton High School and West Taylor Elementary School to the program.
“After sitting down with colleagues and crunching numbers, we found that there was a possibility to seek CEP status for all the schools in the county for the 2020-2021 school year,” she explained. “However, doing so came with a price tag for the county.”
She took her plans to the board, reporting that by seeking CEP, Community Eligibility Provision, status for all five of the county’s school, that would provide free meals to all students, it would cost the county between $70,000 and $90,000.
After discussions with board members, Nines’s plan was approved, and after submitting the proper documentation to the state, all five of Taylor County’s Schools were accepted for CEP for the school year.
“That means, that all students in the county are now eligible for the second round of the P-EBT payments,” Nines shared.
And because she believed the need would be present in the years following, Nines made the decision to have that funding worked into the levy to ensure food needs were being met.
To take part, families do not have to apply for the program.
“Data from the school, district, or state is used to determine benefit eligibility,” Nines explained. “Those families not wishing to take part in the program can simply opt out by not activating their cards.”
She reported that any unused P-EBT benefits will be returned to the federal government 274 days after issuance.
The P-EBT program funds will continue to be administered through the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).
In addition to school enrolled youths, benefits will be issued to children under the age of six, who are not yet enrolled in school and reside in a household that receives SNAP benefits.
Households can expect to receive the one-time payment of $391 per student sometime in August.
Payments will be loaded onto the P-EBT cards that were issued during the first round of payments.
Cards were sent to the address on file with your child’s school, and cards were issued in the student’s name, and each eligible student will receive a card in their name.
“If families have disposed of or lost their cards, they will need to reach out to the state to have another one sent,” Nines noted.
Households will receive a letter with important information prior to the benefit issuance.
A website devoted to the P-EBT program has been activated to assist families with questions or concerns. To access the site, please visit www.wvpebt.org.
A call center has also been instituted to aid families. Please note that call center representatives will not have access to specific student information.
The call center can be accessed Monday-Friday, from 8:00 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. by dialing 1-866-545-6502.
It is estimated that Summer P-EBT funds will be issued to approximately 255,000 children, in an estimated $100 million in additional federal funding.
“I am once again grateful for an additional round of this extremely important funding,” Governor Jim Justice said. “Our children are our greatest treasure in West Virginia and making sure kids have enough to eat is absolutely the most important thing we can do. I commend our state agencies that have worked with these federal resources, so our children have access to the meals they need.”