Were you mailed a benefits card you don’t need? What the state says you should do

New York State

GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — On Friday afternoon, one Greece father found food benefits cards in the mail, earmarked for his children.

“I opened their mail, and I was shocked to find that they had received what looked like a Medicaid card,” said the Greece man, who wished to remain anonymous.

What he found were Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, or P-EBT cards, which he says he didn’t apply for or need.

According to the state, no application was necessary to receive these cards. If you get one, and don’t need to use it to buy food, the state says you should shred the card or cut the magnetic stripe. Benefits for families who need to use them will stay on the card for a year after they were issued. Eventually, unspent funds are returned to the federal government, a state spokesperson said.

News 8 reached out to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance about the cards. A spokesperson for the office said they were sent out to cover the cost of food from the March to June school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state says cards were mailed out to all students who go to qualifying schools enrolled in the federal Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, which allows schools to serve free meals at no cost to students.

“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 authorized the payment of Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) food benefits to households with children who would have received free school lunches under the National School Lunch Act, if not for a school closure. This includes all children attending Community Eligibility Provision schools where all children attending public schools in the district received free or reduced-price school lunches. These temporary food benefits of $420 for each child are to help cover the cost of meals children otherwise would have received at school from March through June during the 2019-2020 school year.”

— New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance

Receiving the cards was still surprising for the Greece father – he wants to make sure families in need get what they need.

“It’s just kind of shocking that they would hand these out to families that don’t qualify for these type of services,” said the father.

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