Families begin receiving sales tax on food refunds

Families begin receiving sales tax on food refunds Gov. Mike Rounds has announced that 18,781 households received their first quarterly refunds from the South Dakota Sales Tax on Food Refund Program.

"The Sales Tax on Food Refund Program is a positive program for the citizens of South Dakota," Rounds said. "This program gives low-income families a sales tax refund on the food they purchase so that they can stretch their food dollars."

The households received their sales tax on food refund benefits in an electronic account. With a plastic debit card called the Dakota EBT card, they can use their benefits to buy almost any food items at most grocery stores anywhere in South Dakota.

Administered by the Department of Social Services (DSS), the new program has so far provided a total of $385,912 in refund benefits, according to DSS Secretary James Ellenbecker. Quarterly refunds vary depending on household size and income levels; however some refunds were as high as $124.

"We are excited about the positive feedback that we are getting from the public. Since the new program went into effect on July 1, we have received calls from many people who think this is a great program," Ellenbecker said. "Individuals have expressed their appreciation for the extra money that they can use to purchase food for their families."

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

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.

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.

The 18,781 households already enrolled represent almost 42 percent of the total estimated households that will receive refunds. DSS is receiving an average of 175 Sales Tax on Food Refund Program applications a day. Ellenbecker said he is encouraged that thousands more South Dakotans will apply for the refund.

To receive a Sales Tax on Food Refund Program application, call toll-free 1-866-674-0543 or visit your local Social Services office. Applications are also available online at www.state.sd.us.

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