Western Heights Public Schools Missing Out On Statewide Pandemic Electronic Benefits


Wednesday, November 3rd 2021, 6:13 pm



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Families at Western Heights Public Schools are speaking out after being left out of a pandemic-related food relief program for kids. 

The problem began this summer, when data about student attendance was supposed to be reported to the state Department of Education so that kids could receive Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) support. 

According to district administration, every single student enrolled at the Western Heights school district in the 2020-21 school year is eligible to receive this funding that helps buy groceries for kids, but families aren’t going to be getting it any time soon.

Barbara Short is raising two grandkids that go to Western Heights. She said money is tight and she doesn’t always have cash on hand to buy nutritious food for her grandchildren. 

“Sometimes I have to ask my son, instead of getting books this time or clothes that you need, can you help out with this? And he’ll do it because he don’t want the girls to go hungry,” said Short. 

She’s not the only person who is hoping for support. 

“You have to make sacrifices. The kids need to eat,” she said. 

Debbie Zoom-Carey commented on a Facebook post about the problem saying “…we were really looking forward to having the PEBT that all the other schools have received to help spread our money further, especially with the holidays coming up. It’s really unfair..”

Samantha Roberts commented and said, “I have four kids who attend Western Heights I’m a single mom and there are days we are barely scraping by and we could really use that assistance.”

Eligible families are supposed to receive a benefit card with $6.82 per day for school days where a student was counted “present” for virtual instruction. 

Western Heights instruction was virtual all of the 2020-2021 school year, besides about 10 days of in-person instruction. 

But students were incorrectly reported as “in-person” before the state education department took control of the district. Because of this, they were never submitted for P-EBT benefits. 

In a letter to the district, the interim administration said they need to update the students data from “in-person” to “virtual” to fix the problem. 

They are waiting on the state Department of Education to open a “corrective window” to submit the data, which is then sent to the Department of Human Services so the benefit cards can be loaded and mailed to families. 

Western Heights is the only public school district experiencing the problem district-wide. 

EPIC Blended is also having problems with data reporting for P-EBT. 

“The question now really is when. When is Western Heights families going to be receiving their P-EBT, and the short answer of that is no one knows,” said Western Heights mother and community advocate Amy Boone. 

Spokespeople expect P-EBT cards to be distributed to Western Heights families in spring of 2022. 

Department of Human Services said there’s nothing they can do for Western Heights families until they get data from the state Department of Education. 

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