State updates P-EBT benefits, unemployment payments

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – As WTVQ ABC 36 News reported last week, round three is under way of the valuable Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which helps ensure Kentucky’s kids do not miss meals during virtual learning that would have been provided to them if their school was open in-person.

The state also provided the latest on unemployment benefits, including the surge in fraudulent claims that has continued in the state and across the country.

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“We are so pleased to announce the launch of Round Three of Pandemic Electronic Benefits assistance, which applies to the time period from October through the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year,” said Gov. Andy Beshear said during his daily briefing Thursday. “Our expert family support team estimates we will have a total monthly issuance of almost $74 million to Kentucky families, and a total program issuance – that covers the entire eight-month academic year – of $590 million. The dollar figures don’t mean as much to us as knowing the thousands of school children who will get access to nutritious meals through this funding.”

P-EBT is approved for both public and private school students who receive free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program and who were are unable to attend school in-person due to COVID-19 school closures since October. Eligible students and families don’t have to do anything – approval is automatic. There is no application process. P-EBT for October 2020 and beyond will be added to existing cards.

If the student currently receives food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), P-EBT benefits will be added to the head-of-household’s EBT card.

  • If the student does not receive SNAP, P-EBT will be added to the cards that were previously issued (fall 2020) in each student’s name.
  • If an individual no longer has the card and their address has not changed, they should call 1-888-979-9949 to request a replacement card.
  • If their address has changed, they should call the Department of Community Based Services (DCBS) at 1-855-306-8959 to report the change and request a new card.

An eligible student will receive the equivalent of 20 days’ benefits – that equals $136.40 – if his or her school district exclusively operated a virtual-only learning model for all students in a given month. An eligible student whose school district operated a combination of in-person and virtual learning environment – also called “hybrid” learning – in a given month will receive the equivalent of 12 days’ benefits – which equals $81.84. Individuals should expect to receive the first issuance of P-EBT the week of March 15.

Some families may have mistakenly received P-EBT cards during the last round of stimulus. Individuals are not obligated to use them if they do not want to or if they know their child does not qualify. If you do not want to receive P-EBT, call DCBS at 1-855-306-8959 to opt out.

In addition, Amy Cubbage, general counsel for Beshear, updated Kentuckians on a new call center and tips for combating fraud and verifying identification in the unemployment insurance (UI) system.

She noted that all but about 5 percent of claims filed in 2020 have been handled.

She said of the 60,000 claims filed in January and February, only 18,000 have valid IDs so far.

“It’s happening nationwide,” she said of the potential fraudulent claims that bog down the processing.

New Call Center Opening in April
“Due to some additional federal funding we’ve been able to procure, we will be opening a new call center in April. We are currently hiring for that call center and as soon as those people are trained and we have everything in place, that will significantly increase our call capacity,” said Cubbage. “This is just one of the ways we’re trying to give you a better experience. Soon, our new user interface we’ve been working on will be rolled out, and this will hopefully get us through to the point where we can rebuild the entire system.”

Reset Four Digit PIN to Combat Fraud
“In an effort to combat fraud against your UI account, we are recommending a change to your four digit PIN if it resembles any personal information about you such as your house number, birth year, last four of your social security number or phone number,” said Cubbage.

Also, avoid simple number sequences like 1234, 9999, 5678, etc.

New Partnership with Nationally Renowned Company for ID Verification
“ID.me is a federally certified identity verification provider that specializes in digital identity protection,” said Cubbage. “They are the only provider to offer a video chat option for citizens that may need additional assistance.”

More than 36 million people use ID.me to manage their digital identity. ID.me also partners with many federal government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, and Department of the Treasury.

Many other states have partnered with ID.me to prevent unemployment benefits fraud; states with almost 70% of the country’s population are now using ID.me to verify for unemployment benefits.

Claimants are directed to a specific website where they can complete the process of creating an ID.me account and verifying their identity. If they do not receive an email from Kentucky’s Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) with the link to the page, they do not need to verify their identity.

Fraud Form and Webpage Updated
OUI has updated its fraud form on the Kentucky Career Center website so that people who believe their identity has been stolen can report it.

“This form allows us to capture all the necessary information our staff needs to review the claim and stop any benefits from going out,” said Cubbage. “After staff have reviewed the information, they will communicate to the person who submitted the form. If you have sent an email to our fraud box before today we do not need you to fill out the form again and we are processing the messages as soon as we can in the order they are received.”