HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Local families who receive help when it comes to putting food on their table, may see some extra money soon thanks to a federal grant.
Mary Ann Gordon hasn’t been able to return to her bartending job for the past few months and decided to enroll her family in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the largest federal nutrition assistance program.
It provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. It allows families to purchase eligible food in authorized food stores.
“I didn’t apply until about May, and I probably should’ve applied earlier,” Gordon said. “It’s been a great help.”
Thanks to a waiver from the Department of Agriculture, she, and everyone else in the state, has been eligible for the maximum amount every month since March.
“They pushed everybody to the max, so for three people, I’m getting $509,” said Gordon. “I don’t have to worry about feeding my kids. That’s more than enough for the three of us.”
Gordon received an extra $330 this month thanks to a new program the Department of Social Services applied for called “Pandemic EBT.” The federally-funded program is designed to make up for the meals that kids lost out on after schools were forced to closed in March due to the pandemic.
“The $330 amount, we calculated that based on the number of days the schools were physically closed to the public and not serving children in their physical locations,” said South Carolina Department of Social Services Communications Director Connelly-Anne Ragley. “We calculated that at 58 days times $5.70.”
Gordon’s children are two of nearly 500,000 in the state that qualified.
For families already on SNAP, the money was automatically put on their cards this month.
There will be another phase of the $330 for families who aren’t on SNAP.
“The estimates are $154 million will be invested in local grocery stores and local food markets, so it has a huge potential impact in our economies,” said Ragley.
DSS has already rolled out the first phase of those $330 checks and they’ll roll out the second phase sometime in August.
But that’s not the only change coming for the SNAP program.
DSS has been giving everyone on EBT the full amount for the past five months to make grocery shopping a little easier during the pandemic, but that might be coming to an end very soon.
The state is still waiting to see if the Department of Agriculture will approve more funding as the pandemic continues. If they don’t, people will revert back to their previous income-based support.
For people who’ve returned to work in some capacity, that could mean a significant reduction in SNAP benefits.
The maximum for example is $194 for a one-person household or $509 for a three-person household.
Ragley said that DSS is doing all it can to get that emergency EBT extended.
“We’re at the mercy of the federal government,” said Ragley. “We’ve submitted the necessary information to extend that amount to our families in South Carolina, but we are just playing the waiting game.”