Along with the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus has come welcome assistance from local, state and federal governments. But getting that help to citizens can be a messy process.
A number of Louisa parents were excited earlier this month when they received electronic benefit cards in the mail that can be used at grocery stores. The cards, issued through Pandemic-EBT, a new federal program, are intended to offset the loss of free- and reduced-cost meals at Louisa County Public Schools.
The problem was that the cards had the wrong last names on them. Some residents were afraid to use them for fear of being accused of fraud.
“I don’t feel comfortable using it if it doesn’t have my name on it,” said Katherine Carter, a Louisa parent of two students. She knew at least three other parents in the same predicament.
When Carter called the Louisa Department of Human Services, staff there didn’t know what to tell her. While the Louisa agency administers EBT cards for people who receive SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, Pandemic-EBT is run by the state Department of Social Services using data from individual school systems.
“When people have called about this, we’ve given them an 800 number to call, because the cards didn’t originate from us,” said Janice Allen, Louisa DHS director.
By early last week, Randy Herman, Louisa County Public Schools nutrition director, realized what had happened. She sent parents a letter advising that new cards will be issued soon and they should throw away the ones with the wrong last names. Those cards will be deactivated.
“Although the cards were mailed to the correct families, we realize some families received cards with errors,” said Andrew Woolfolk, LCPS spokesman. “We apologize, but LCPS has taken immediate steps to correct this mistake.”