Many in Missouri still waiting for school lunch reimbursements

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The application deadline has passed but hundreds of metro families are still waiting to find out if they’ll get pandemic relief.

Missouri let parents in school districts that went remote for parts of last year apply for reimbursements for missed free school lunches under the The Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

If you emailed or mailed your application to the Division of Family in Support in Kansas City you were supposed to get a response within 30 days. When that didn’t happen, the state told needy families to apply again. Now some people are being told all their applications were lost and they are out of luck, because the deadline was Friday, August 20.

Kids learning at home missed out on a lot last school year, valuable feedback, friends, but also food. The USDA made school lunches free for all students when they were in the building last year and will continue that program this year. But that didn’t help families who previously qualified for free lunches, when students had to stay home.

“It adds up with the price of groceries,” Jamie Montes, the father of an Independence third grader said.

Montes had to pay for meals all school year for his daughter but watched and waited for applications for something called Pandemic EBT to open up in June.

The program provides families $129 per child per month if schools had remote learning for more than 13 days and $77.75 if it was less. Children are also eligible for the smaller payment if schools operated at reduced attendance, or in a hybrid model, for 13 days or more in a month. Missouri’s Department of Social Services said it would respond to applications and issue benefits within 30 days.

“Still haven’t heard nothing, no correspondence back, no email, nothing,” Montes said of his application sent in around July 4.

So he turned to the agency’s Facebook page. At that point the state was encouraging people who applied in June and July to reapply, out of what it called “an abundance of caution.”

“Multiple people were saying they emailed application after application never heard anything back. Some people said they called could never get through waited four hours to get through still couldn’t get through,” Montes said.

After reportedly spending hours on hold, Justina Brown did reach someone, the first business day after the application deadline.

“I was told they lost both applications and there was nothing they could do,” Brown said.

She believes she’s now out of thousands of dollars to feed her children.

“Maybe they will find my application and maybe I will get them at this time. At this point I’m just going to put my hands up and be done with it because it’s too much,” she said of the process.

While countless others voicing their frustration on the agency’s social media posts regarding the delay and confusion continue to wait.

“DSS continues to process applications for P-EBT and individuals should not be alarmed if they have not yet received follow-up regarding their application,” said Missouri Department of Social Services Communications Director Rebecca L. Woelfel.

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