Many Haverhill residents are sitting on more than $1.6 million worth of food purchasing power and may not realize it.
Haverhill School Committee member Richard J. Rosa said he learned of the unspent grocery money recently during a conversation with state Rep. Andy X. Vargas. Rosa said the money is in the form of P-EBT cards which were distributed by the federal government to families with school children during the height of the pandemic. He said, because Haverhill provides lunches for all of its students, many cards were distributed.
“So, a couple months back, Rep. Vargas brought to my attention that there were a number of these cards that were never activated. They issued 5,518 P-EBT cards in Haverhill. The total amount of money on those cards was $7,863,178. There are 637 of these cards that have never been activated. Between the inactivated cards and cards that were activated, but still have money on them, there is $1,633,178 in food money for Haverhill families,” he explained.
Rosa said if families, for whatever reason, would rather not use the cards for themselves, they may use them to buy food and donate it to others or food pantries. He said the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a list of people that received cards but never activated them. Rosa said he hoped school administrators would get hold of that list and let those people know the money is there. He also emphasized that there is an end date on the cards so they should be used as soon as possible.
There are methods of replacing lost cards.
School Superintendent Margaret Marotta said she was excited to hear about the program and would contact the state once school was fully underway.
Rosa said it may be helpful, if allowed, to enlist the aid of volunteers to make calls because of the sheer number of outstanding cards. School Committee member Gail M. Sullivan was the first to volunteer.