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Public Benefits During a Pandemic

Food and Medical Resources for the Most Vulnerable Among Us.

For the first time in over a century, the US is facing a global pandemic on a scale large enough to disrupt normal, daily activities and routines. We have largely been able to go on with business as usual through SARS, MERS, H1N1, and other pandemics that have emerged in the last two decades. Currently, the US and the world is battling the COVID-19 virus. For many of us, this is a stressful time, filled with annoyances. For the most vulnerable among us who live on the brink of food insecurity, this is much more than a mere inconvenience or disruption of daily life.

The School Nutrition Association predicts that 11 million children (1 in 7) across the United States live in households that do not have access to adequate food on a consistent basis. For these children, school meals provide a valuable source of nutrition. As schools across the country close to prevent further spread of COVID:19, the US Department of Agriculture and local districts nationwide are developing ways of getting food to the children most in need. The South Carolina Department of Education oversees the implementation of the School Nutrition programs across the state of South Carolina. Many local districts are implementing a modified version of their seamless summer feeding. The program usually requires that meals be consumed on site; however, the USDA is granting waivers to provide the meals to be picked up or delivered to students in need. These meals are free to all children age 18 and under. You can get more information here about how to access these meals. Local school districts are the also a great source of information.

The US Department of Agriculture has also implemented other emergency measures to ensure that the needs of the food insecure can continue to be met during this public health crisis through its other Food and Nutrition Services: SNAP, WIC, and a wide variety of Food Distribution Programs. Many of the measures can be implemented by states without further USDA approval. The South Carolina Department of Social Services is responsible for implementing SNAP and no additional information is

currently available on their website regarding any changes in procedure for the SNAP program. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control administers the WIC program. There are presently no updates as to changes to the normal operation of this program on the DHEC website. Presently, there are no state office closures across the state. Our Public Benefits Unit will continue to monitor any changes that impact these programs and provide updates as the situation develops.

Medicare provides medical coverage for those most at risk of developing serious complications from COVID:19—the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions. Information has been released by the federal government that Medicare will pay for testing for COVID:19 and any resulting hospitalizations or medical treatments. Those with Medicare Advantage Plans have access to the same benefits, and Medicare is allowing these plans to waive cost-sharing for the COVID:19 lab tests.

Medicaid is administered by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for the benefit of qualifying, low income South Carolinians. There are several waivers available to state agencies who administer Medicaid during this current public health emergency. Individuals who have flulike symptoms should try to use the telemedical resources available for free through MUSC for screening purposes rather than going to local emergency departments unless symptoms are severe. The MUSC Virtual medicine screenings are FREE for all South Carolinians with the code COVID19. The website is: www.muschealth.org/virtual-care. Those with questions about using the service should call 843-261-5940.

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