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Some families still waiting for pandemic food benefits

November 24, 2021 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Department of Human Services officials say inaccurate data provided by school districts is leading to delays in families receiving pandemic food cards.

Meanwhile, families say they are waiting hours on hold when they to reach out to Mississippi Pandemic EBT Hotline for assistance.

The rollout of the cards, meant to provide assistance to families of children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school and missed out on the benefits because of the pandemic, has been hampered by challenges.

About 345,000 Mississippi children were set to receive a benefit of $375 per child through the Pandemic EBT program, according to the state. The Mississippi Department of Human Services said in September the money would be distributed by the end of October, but that hasn’t happened in all cases.

In October, more than 14,000 low-income children in Mississippi had their pandemic food cards mistakenly deactivated. Officials said children with an apostrophe in their first or last names all had their cards accidentally deactivated by a processing partner. Families would have new cards sent to them in days, officials promised.

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Now, some families say they still haven’t received the funds.

Department of Human Services spokesperson Mark Jones told WLBT-TV that delays in card distribution are the result of inaccurate data from the school districts, which were responsible for providing a list of names and addresses of qualifying students. Jones said there is now a high call volume to the hotline because of those inaccuracies.

Washington County parent Isaac Morris, 57, told the television station he’s waited on hold for up to three hours to no avail.

“It’s important for me, my family,” said Morris. “My wife is going through breast cancer and stuff like that, and it would help us a lot.”