What would you do with $788 worth of free groceries?


Misha Ankudovych, Editor-In-Chief

Many students have been finding unexpected envelopes addressed to them in the mail this week, and even more have been tossing those envelopes in the trash unopened! But wait! Don’t do that!

Every student who has been enrolled in Amityville Union Free School District during the last school year will be receiving something in the mail called a Pandemic Electronic Bank Transfer (P-EBT) card. And, if you’re like me, you will be extremely confused when it arrives, and also like me, you might even throw it out!

So.. what exactly is a P-EBT card? 

The United States recently passed a bill, titled The Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021 and Other Extensions Act. Among other things, this bill approved the delivering of funds to students whose access to their free or reduced lunch benefits was interrupted by hybrid and fully-remote learning experienced during the 2020-2021 school year. For a brief synopsis of this program and some FAQs, you can visit this website.

In a program touted as unprecedented by our high school principal, Mr. Plaia, each student affected will receive $82 per month in which we participated in hybrid learning, and $132 per month in which we participated in fully-remote learning.

Because this is acting retroactively for the entire 2020-2021 school year, every student will receive all of the aid for that school year in one lump sum, leading to a total of $788. However, in the future, if Amityville ever re-transitions back into either hybrid or virtual learning, each student will receive benefits on a monthly basis.

Do I qualify for P-EBT?

Short answer: If you have attended Amityville during the 2020-2021 school year, you will qualify for this program.

Long answer: Eligibility for the P-EBT card depends on whether a student has been enrolled in Free or reduced lunch. Recently, in Amityville, all students have been enrolled in free lunch regardless of their income level. This means that every student in Amityville will receive these benefits, however, in other towns, only certain students will receive these benefits.

I didn’t get a P-EBT card in the mail.. What now?

There are a few reasons that you may have not recently received this card in the mail. 

  1. Students who are already receiving government assistance in the form of SNAP or other food security programs, will have this money placed directly onto their preexisting EBT card.
  2. Students who received the P-EBT assistance during the 2019-2020 school year (before all of Amityville was registered for free or reduced lunch) will receive their benefits on that P-EBT card. 
  3. Students who are receiving government assistance in the form of Medicaid AND who received their P-EBT benefits for the 2019-2020 school year on their Medicaid card, will have it transferred to that card again.
  4. If you are currently a student of Amityville, but were not one during the 2020-2021 school year, you will not qualify.

It is impossible to apply for a P-EBT card. They are automatically handed out based upon availability, so if you haven’t gotten one, and do not fall into any of the above categories, there is no straightforward way to register for a card, however, you can attempt to follow the instructions for a lost card to attempt to receive these benefits. 

But I just threw away my card! 

For the sake of honesty, I will tell you, I did the same thing. When the cards for myself, and my seven year old sister came in the mail, I was horrified that we were victims of identity theft. My mother called the social security agency and voiced our concerns. We were told that there was nothing to worry about, and that we were able to throw our cards away if we didn’t register for them. Don’t do this! 

If you did throw your card away, here are the steps that we took to get ours back: 

  1. Call 1-888-328-6399.
  2. Enter 999-99 and then the month and date of the cardholder’s birthday. (For example if born on February 21st 2004, you would enter 999-99-0221 when asked to enter your social security number).
  3. You will then have to confirm the cardholder’s full birthday in MMDDYYYY format (Following the example from earlier, you would enter 02212004).
  4. Enter your P-EBT PIN. If you have yet to create a pin, you will be able to follow alternative steps to receive your replacement card. 

These replacement cards are provided free of charge and should arrive in 5-7 business days. 

How can I use this program to help my community?

When asked about the program, social studies teacher, Mr. Greiss, called it an amazing opportunity for those who need it, and a possible mismanagement of funds for those who don’t. And this is a valid concern. Is it fair that we all receive this card, even if our family might not necessarily need it? An initial response to this feeling might be to throw away your card, however this will not redistribute these funds to others in our community. The only way to contribute to your community with this program is to use the card yourself. 

To aid your community using this card you can either: 

  1. Use your P-EBT card to purchase food from local businesses to support them and the local economy. 
  2. Use your P-EBT card to purchase food that you will then donate to food donation drives, or directly to people in your community with food insecurity. 
  3. Spread the word! Very few people know of this program. Telling your peers and parents about it will allow as many people as possible to benefit from what they’ve received. 

This aid has the very real potential to impact the lives of members of our community, and we should do all we can to ensure that it does. 

Are there any other resources for food insecure families? 

Yes! This is only the beginning of benefits offered to families! Below are a number of resources that aim to help families suffering from food insecurity: 

Other Information 

  • You can use this card just like a normal debit card at participating stores, to buy qualifying food products. Click here for more information on using an EBT card.
  • The funds on this card last at least as long as 274 days from their date of issuance.
  • For further information you can call 1-833-452-0096 or visit this NYS website.
  • No families have to pay back any of the money given to them with the P-EBT benefits. 
  • Once again, do not throw your card away, even after using all the funds! If Amityville ever re-transitions into a either full or partial virtual learning scenario, more money will be added to this card 

There is no doubt that this amazing program has the opportunity to greatly improve the lives of many members of our community. Whether you end up using these benefits for your own family, or to support other members of your community, we should all be extremely grateful to have participated this program and make sure to ‘pay it forward’ in the coming months.