Superintendents in area respond to P-EBT card error

Many families who did not qualify for food assistance received a P-EBT card in the mail. The Oklahoma Department of Education is encouraging families to destroy the cards.

Cherokee County schools have been affected by a mixup at the Oklahoma State Department of Education a few weeks ago, which caused the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer program to mail out thousands of Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer cards to students who did not meet the eligibility requirements.

Around 350,000 students statewide were mailed debit cards, and many of these children come from families who overqualify for assistance. In response, Carrie Burkhart of the OSDOE encouraged residents who do not qualify for the aid to destroy the cards that were sent to them.

"Parents or guardians do not have to return the card or unenroll in any program.

"They simply need to destroy the cards. We are sorry for the inconvenience," Carrie Burkhart wrote in an email.

Children must meet two requirements to receive a P-EBT card: They must be enrolled in a school district that participates in a federal meal program where meals are served, and they must qualify and have applied for free and or reduced meals based on their 2020-2021 income.

All public school districts in Cherokee County participate in federal meal programs.

As a part of the program, families of students who are eligible are supposed to receive a P-EBT benefits card equivalent to $6.82 per day for school days in which the student was enrolled in a participating school and received virtual instruction. Benefits are not issued for days in which the student received in-person instruction. The number of days a person receives virtual learning is determined by the school.

At the beginning of the school year, Tahlequah Public Schools made a push to ensure that all students filled out forms for free or reduced lunches, regardless of whether they qualified for it. During an October TPS board meeting, Dana Dobson, Child Nutrition director, said 97.4 percent of families had turned in these forms. She explained that filling out these forms helped the district with funding.

"Our families have done an amazing job at getting these forms," she said.

It is unclear whether the state sent P-EBT cards to the families of all students who turned in free or reduced-price lunch forms.

"We are aware; it is a state issue. Anyone who calls we refer them to the Department of Health Services. We have no role otherwise," said TPS Superintendent Leon Ashlock.

At Hulbert, Superintendent Jolyn Choate observed the letter about the statewide notice.

She, like other area superintendents, will work talk with individuals with questions, and has not sent out a notice to families.

Notices were not sent out to TPS or Keys Public Schools families.

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