Hurry: Unused Pandemic Food Benefits Are Set to Expire Soon

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Federal relief money is hard to come by, and thus, it is important that people make use of all available benefits. One such benefit is the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, a food benefit to households with children. It is estimated that thousands of families in New York City have millions in unused pandemic food benefits. The unused benefits will start to expire this month.

Pandemic food benefits: when they expire?

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) was reauthorized at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic to help households with children cover the cost of meals that children would have received during the 2021-22 school year, the summer of 2022 and summer of 2023 periods.

Authorities have distributed several chunks of pandemic food benefits since 2020 to families whose students usually receive free meals at school. It is, however, estimated that thousands of New York City families have not redeemed their allotments of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer.

According to state data shared by education consultant David Rubel a few months ago, families of about 90,000 eligible children had not redeemed their allotment of the pandemic food benefits.

These unused pandemic food benefits, amounting to at least $35 million, could start to expire after December if they continue to go unspent. According to the New York state website, the P-EBT benefits will be accessible on the card for 274 days from the date they were issued.

Since NYC public schools have universal meals, all families qualify for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer regardless of income. Several rounds of funds have been distributed by the state this month, including $120 per child for the summer of 2023 and a minimum of $391 per child for the summer of 2022 and the 2021-22 school year.

In total, the has state issued about $5.4 billion in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer since 2020. Of this, about 60% was issued directly to low-income families who receive federal benefits through the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

A point to note is that P-EBT benefits are not SNAP benefits, but one can use these benefits to buy the same food items that can be purchased with SNAP benefits.

Possible reason for unused funds

On one hand, some families are sitting on unused funds; on the other, some never received their state-issued pandemic food benefits cards. Some also complain that certain disbursements of P-EBT never arrived in their account.

One reason for millions in unused funds or some families not receiving their card or disbursement could be that they were unable to contact customer support to get the needed information.

Several parents have complained that they had trouble reaching anyone who could help them, with some saying that they often received an automated response, while some said that they experienced long wait times to speak to an agent.

Officials say that the state maintains detailed P-EBT information on its website, as well as operates a phone helpline at 1-833-452-009. Also, officials claim that they have provided information on each disbursement to the state’s Education Department.