Families in the Ozarks anxiously waiting for 3rd round of pandemic school lunch money

Families anxiously waiting for third round of pandemic school lunch money
Families anxiously waiting for third round of pandemic school lunch money
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 10:06 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Some families across Missouri anxiously await a state check for pandemic EBT funds.

It’s money from a COVID-19 relief program that helps cover food benefits for low-income children. Families thought the checks would arrive this summer. That didn’t happen.

The state says its original proposal had to be resubmitted in early October due to missing information. The schools must submit absence data for eligibility.

“It’s very hard, especially when you’re a single parent,” said Rachael Suter, an SPS parent. “There are so many people that are out there struggling trying to make ends meet.”

Suter is a single mother of three kids. She is one of many parents across Missouri waiting for the third round of benefits in grocery assistance money from the state. Families receive $391 for every child who qualified for subsidized school lunches during the prior academic year and for children under six who are eligible for SNAP. This time around, eligibility has changed, and no application is required. It’s based on COVID-19-related absences.

”It’s taken a while to develop a portal, so we did not have this information, so it takes developing this from scratch, building it from the ground up to be able to collect all the information from the schools,” said Barbara Shaw with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

School districts are urged to submit students eligible for pandemic EBT by the end of December, but parents are getting anxious as the months go by. If the food benefits had been issued closer to summertime, Suter says life would be much easier if it happened before the holidays.

As far as when families could see the money hit their account, one last step is in order. Absence data sent from the schools to DESE must go to the Missouri Department of Social Services for approval.

”It just depends on how the information comes into our office and how quickly we’re able to get that reviewed, and it’s our top priority,” said Shaw.

State education leaders hope the checks will go out early next year.

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