New program to help families stretch food dollars

New program to help families stretch food dollars Starting July 1, the South Dakota Sales Tax on Food Refund Program will begin helping low-income families stretch their food dollars.

According to Gov. Mike Rounds, the new program will be administered by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and provide refunds of sales tax payments on food to South Dakota residents who need the refunds most.

"The Sales Tax on Food Refund Program will put money back into the pockets of low-income families," Rounds said. "Because the sales tax on food refunds will be paid quarterly, people will receive a three-month payment that they can use to help subsidize their household's food budget. A family of four would receive an annual refund of up to $314."

To be eligible for the program, a person must complete a simple, one-page application and meet basic eligibility rules. According to DSS Secretary James Ellenbecker, one of the rules is that the household's gross monthly income must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Therefore, a family of four's annual gross income must be at or below $28,275.

"Households only have to apply one time for this new program," said Ellenbecker, "and the process couldn't be easier, as individuals only have to mail us an application."

People who have received food stamp benefits for three months in a row are automatically approved for the sales tax

on food refund and do not need to apply, Ellenbecker said. Those who have received food stamp benefits for one or two months will need to complete an application to apply for the program, or they can wait until they receive food stamp benefits for three months and are automatically eligible for sales tax on food refund benefits.

A national food plan is used to determine the monthly cost of food a family needs to purchase for a healthy, nutritious diet. Amounts vary based on household size. The household's refund is then based on this amount and paid quarterly, which means a household will receive three months of benefits in one payment, Ellenbecker said.

"Because the Sales Tax on Food Refund Program benefits are based on a national food plan rather than what households actually spend on average for food," said Jason Dilges, Bureau of Finance and Management commissioner, "the average household of four will receive 48 percent more or $109 more per year than what their actual sales tax on food burden would be."

People will receive a plastic debit card, the Dakota EBT card, and their refund benefits in an electronic account. They can use their benefits to buy almost any food item at most grocery stores anywhere in South Dakota.

For a Sales Tax on Food Refund Program application, call (605) 773-4105 or 1-866-674-0543 or visit www.state.sd.us or local Social Services offices.

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