‘It’s really unfair’: Some Horry County students not receiving food benefits due to inaccurate attendance records

Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 5:33 AM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Several Horry County parents say they’re missing out on hundreds of dollars to help feed their children after not receiving their P-EBT cards.

Administered by the South Carolina Department of Education and the Department of Social Services, the funds provide food benefits for eligible students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds are based on a student’s classroom attendance from September 2020 to December 2020, $6.82 for each school day they’re marked present/marked virtually present by their school/school district.

The DSS said the P-EBT cards are expected to be mailed out by Friday, April 16, for students eligible to receive the benefits.

Per the DSS website, a child is eligible for the benefits if they meet three criteria:

  • Enrolled in a free and reduced-price school meals program or attending a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school
  • Attending a school experiencing pandemic-triggered closures or reduced attendance/hours
  • Attending school virtually, either full-time or on a hybrid schedule

Some parents say their kids meet all the requirements, but they’re concerned about not receiving the card because their attendance records weren’t updated in a timely manner.

Parent Heather Croy has two children enrolled in the virtual learning program with Horry County Schools. She says her kids have been attending their classes online and are eligible for the benefits.

But when she checked their attendance on the online portal PowerSchool, she says it had them both marked as absent from September until December 2020.

On paper, that adds up to $0 on the P-EBT card.

“It’s really unfair, it’s a benefit that’s owed to them,” Croy said.

She says she then made numerous calls, trying to get answers as to why the portal wasn’t reflecting her children’s attendance. She said she later spoke with attendance personnel with Horry County Schools.

“The lady called me back and said it was a glitch with the DSS system when they pulled the attendance from PowerSchool,” Croy said.

Croy said a few hours later, the attendance portal was updated correctly. However, it’s still unclear as to when and how soon she will receive the card.

She says this entire process is hard to deal with for many families waiting for the card, noting that it’s a financial inconvenience for her family because she quit her job to her stay at home with her kids for the virtual program.

“That’s a loss of an income,” she said. “On paper, my husband makes too much money to qualify for any kind of benefits but when you pay insurance and taxes and your regular bills, sometimes some weeks it’s tight.”

WMBF News also spoke with another parent in the district who doesn’t want to be identified by name.

She says her child that’s eligible for P-EBT has been attending virtual classes. However, the parent says she’s concerned about not receiving the card because the online portal marked her child as not present for most of the school year.

That parent described this entire process of trying to access funds as ‘stressful.’

“We were counting on that money to be there,” she said. “I lost my job due to the COVID-pandemic. My husband is the only one that works in our household. This has been a struggle not only for us but for many families. To be counting on something and to be told we’re going to give this to you, it was upsetting.”

“Who’s going to fix it? That’s my thing?,” Croy said.

The DSS told WMBF News to contact individual school districts on this matter.

Ryan Brown, Spokesperson for the State Department of Education, said his agencies pull the data from information provided by the school districts.

The spokesperson for Horry County Schools told WMBF News the district is aware of the issues. We’re expecting to learn more from the district on Thursday.

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