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A Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) card sent to families of eligible children is shown in 2020. A new round of benefits has been approved for West Virginia children, and will be released in March 2021.

CHARLESTON — A second round of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT) funding will be allocated to eligible children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals after the United States Department of Agriculture approved its issuance, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday.

“We are incredibly grateful that another round of these benefits will be allocated in West Virginia, even as the challenges posed by the pandemic continue,” Justice said in a news release.

“Our children are our greatest treasure in West Virginia, and making sure our kids have enough to eat is absolutely the most important thing we can do.”

The USDA approved the second round of government benefits Thursday.

The P-EBT cards are designed to reimburse families for free or reduced-price meals their children would have been eligible for, had they been in school and not at home due to COVID-19. In June 2020, more than 230,000 West Virginia students received $313 each in federal aid to account for those meals that would have been provided in March, April and May of last year.

Forty-three out of 55 state counties are Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) counties, which means free meals are served to all public school students daily.

An estimated $200 million in P-EBT funding is expected as a part of the next round of benefits. The program will continue to be administered through the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

“West Virginia’s commitment to consistent and high-quality meals for children during the pandemic remains a top priority,” State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch said in the release. “The P-EBT program has been important because of the flexibility it offers families. As the pandemic continues, children will benefit immensely from these extended benefits that will strengthen our efforts to ensure children have access to the nutrition they need.”

Benefits will start to be released mid-March and will be applied retroactively to the beginning of the school year. The benefits will be issued to a special P-EBT card — not to the Mountain State EBT card — so families will receive a new electronic benefits card in the mail. A public information hotline and website (www.wvpebt.org) will be available starting Feb. 15 to explain the latest round of funding.

“We know the pandemic has been an incredibly stressful time for West Virginia families and hope that P-EBT alleviates some challenges,” said DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch.

There were 398 new cases of COVID-19 reported in West Virginia on Monday, for a total of 125106, and two more deaths for a total of 2,131. Total cases in Mingo County reached 2,008.

Statewide, 219,892 first doses of the vaccine had been administered and 105,889 people were fully vaccinated as of Monday.

Anyone over the age of 16 who is interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine can pre-register at www.vaccinate.wv.gov. Once registered, people can receive real-time updates on vaccine availability.