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FAQs

Eligibility

 Q. What is Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. Virginia SUN Bucks is a federal food benefit program created to reduce childhood hunger by providing eligible children with a one-time $120 food benefit on a SUN Bucks card or a household's current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT card to purchase groceries. Many families will get the benefit without applying, while some families will need to apply.

 Q. Who is automatically eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks and does not need to apply?
 A. Most children eligible to receive Virginia SUN Bucks will receive the benefit automatically without having to fill out an application. Your child is automatically enrolled in Virginia SUN Bucks if they:
  • Receive SNAP or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits or participate in Medicaid based on your income.
and/or
  • Applied for and received free or reduced-price meals during the 2023-2024 school year through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). (This does not include what's called Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, schools in which all students receive free meals without an application process.)
The Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Department of Education estimate about 650,000 children qualify as a part of these two groups and do not need to apply because they are automatically enrolled in Virginia SUN Bucks.

 Q. How do I know if my family needs to apply for Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. You must apply for Virginia SUN Bucks if your child did not apply for and receive free or reduced-price school meals or your family does not participate in SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income. Some schools provide free meals to kids without an application. If your child attends one of these schools and they do not participate in SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income, you should apply!

 Q. How do I know if my child is ineligible for Virginia SUN Bucks and should NOT apply?
 A. Your household may be ineligible if your income is above the program limit. The total amount of money your household can make depends on how many people live with you. Click here to see if you make too much to participate in Virginia SUN Bucks.
Another way your child may be ineligible for Virginia SUN Bucks is if they are homeschooled, attend a virtual school, or attend a non-public school that does not participate in the NSLP and your family does not participate in SNAP, TANF or income-based Medicaid. All public schools in Virginia are required to participate in the NSLP by state mandate.

 Q. I don't think my family is automatically enrolled in Virginia SUN Bucks. How do I apply?
 A. You can fill out, print, sign and mail the application form starting July 1, 2024. The mailing address is Virginia SUN Bucks, c/o VDSS, 5600 Cox Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060. The application must be received by Aug. 30, 2024. The application cannot be processed by your local department of social services or school.

You also can apply by contacting the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center July 22 through Aug. 30, 2024, at 866-513-1414 (toll-free) or 804-294-1633 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. ‐ 6 p.m. to fill out an application by phone.

Learn more about applying for Virginia SUN Bucks.

 Q. If my children are not enrolled in a National School Lunch Program (NSLP) school and are not receiving benefits through SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on my income, are they still eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. No, children who are not attending an NSLP school may only establish eligibility for Virginia SUN Bucks if they are receiving benefits through SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income.

 Q. My child's school does not participate in a free or reduced meals program and my family is low-income, so is my child eligible for this program?
 A. School-aged children who are not attending an NSLP school may be eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks if they participate in SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income.

The Virginia SUN Bucks program has income limits for eligibility, so your household income must be under the maximum income limits for your household size. You can check the Virginia SUN Bucks income eligibility guidelines here.

Alternatively, if you need support, you can apply for SNAP, TANF and Medicaid on-line at commonhelp.virginia.gov.

 Q. How do I know if I'm eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks based on my income?
 A. Your household is automatically eligible if your family participates in the SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income, or your child applied for and received free or reduced-price school meals. If your family does not meet one of those eligibility factors, then your household must meet the Virginia SUN Bucks income guidelines.

Please note that Virginia SUN Bucks may have a different income limit than other benefit programs.

 Q. My income increased/decreased. How will that affect my child's eligibility for Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. My income increased
If your child was eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks, free or reduced-price school meals, or SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income at any point between July 2023 and the end of summer 2024, your child remains eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks benefits even if your income later increases. However, you must be eligible, per the income guidelines, at the time you apply for school meals or Virginia SUN Bucks. If your income later increases, you will not have to pay back your benefits.

My income decreased
If your income decreases, you can apply for Virginia SUN Bucks until Aug. 30, 2024, though applying later means your benefits may be delayed. The total benefit amount will be the same at $120 per eligible child no matter when you apply within the application window of July 1-Aug. 30, 2024. You can also consider applying for SNAP benefits at commonhelp.virginia.gov.

If your income decreases or your household size increases, you might be eligible, so contact the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center starting July 22 at 866-513-1414 (toll-free) or 804-294-1633 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. ‐ 6 p.m. or apply by mail starting July 1.

 Q. Will all children who attend special provision schools (called Community Eligibility Provision or CEP schools) be automatically enrolled in Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. No. Attending a CEP school, in which all students receive free meals without an application, does not mean you are not automatically eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks unless your family is also enrolled in SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income, or your child was placed in foster care. If you do not meet one of those criteria, but believe you would qualify based on your income, you must apply in order to receive Virginia SUN Bucks.

You can apply starting July 1, 2024, by completing the application available on virginiasunbucks.com and mailing it to Virginia SUN Bucks, c/o VDSS, 5600 Cox Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060 or by contacting the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414 (toll-free) or 804-294-1633 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. ‐ 6 p.m. beginning July 22. Either way, the application window closes Aug. 30, 2024.

Your child also can apply if your household becomes income-eligible during the summer (check your income eligibility here) or if they submitted a meal application at school.

Learn more about applying for Virginia SUN Bucks.

 Q. Can homeschooled children receive Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. School-aged children who are homeschooled may be eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks only if they participate in SNAP, TANF or income-eligible Medicaid. If you are one of these households, you automatically qualify for Virginia SUN Bucks.

 Q. My family was eligible for SNAP, TANF and/or Medicaid for only part of the year. Is my child still eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. If your child was attending a public school in Virginia and your family participated in SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income, your child's eligibility remains in effect for the entire school year, and they are still automatically eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks.

 Q. If my child attends a year-round school, are they still eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks if they meet all other eligibility requirements?
 A. Yes. Children attending year-round eligible schools are still eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks.

 Q. My child receives free lunch at school, so why do I need to apply?
 A. You only need to apply if your household has not completed and been approved for a free or reduced-price meal application OR does not participate in SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income.

There are some schools that provide free meals to all students without an application. If your student attends one of these schools (called Community Eligibility Provision or CEP), and your student does not participate in SNAP, TANF or Medicaid based on your income, then your child will need to apply to receive Virginia SUN Bucks if your income meets the eligibility guidelines.

Learn more about eligibility for Virginia SUN Bucks.

 Q. My child attends a virtual-only school. Is my child eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks?
 A. School-aged children who attend virtual school are eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks only if they also participate in SNAP, TANF or income-eligible Medicaid.

Application Process

 Q. My child is not automatically eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks, so when can I apply?
 A. VDSS is accepting applications for children not automatically enrolled in Virginia SUN Bucks from July 1 through Aug. 30, 2024.

Starting July 1, you can complete the application online, print and mail it to 5600 Cox Road, Glen Allen, VA, 23060 or apply by phone starting July 22 by contacting the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414 (toll- free) or 804-294-1633 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. ‐ 6 p.m. All mailed applications must be received by Aug. 30, which is also the last day to apply by phone. Learn more.

 Q. What information will I need to apply for Virginia SUN Bucks if I do need to apply?
 A. You will need to provide information about your child/children including their age(s), birth date(s), the county/city school division and the school(s) they attend, mailing address(es) and your household income. You will need each student's local student ID number; you can find that number in the parent portal. You do not need to provide proof of citizenship or proof of income like paystubs. You will be asked to provide the last four digits of your child's Social Security number (SSN), but it is not required.

 Q. What is the timeframe for submitting and processing applications?
 A. VDSS is accepting applications for children not automatically eligible and enrolled in Virginia SUN Bucks from July 1 through Aug. 30, 2024. You can fill out, print and mail the application to 5600 Cox Road, Glen Allen, VA, 23060 or apply by phone starting July 22 by contacting the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414 (toll-free) or 804-294-1633 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. ‐ 6 p.m. Applications will be processed and approved by VDSS, not your local agency or your school. All mailed applications must be received by Aug. 30, which is also the last day to apply by phone.

 Q. I know I have to include my child's student ID on the Virginia SUN Bucks application or it may be rejected. How and where do I find it?
 A. It is the same as your child's PIN, or local ID number, which most students memorize, because they use it often at school. The student ID number:
  • Is between seven and 12 digits long.
  • Is in the online meal payment system.
  • Is on your child's report card and perhaps their class schedule.
  • Is on your child's enrollment/admission/registration paperwork.
  • Is found through the parent portal that may be called PowerSchool, ParentVue or something else. (It's the same place you can see your child's class schedule or report card.)

Benefits

 Q. When will VDSS issue Virginia SUN Bucks benefits?
 A. Benefits will be issued beginning August 2024 on a rolling basis to children who automatically qualify and to families who are eligible by application. Families might get their Virginia SUN Bucks benefits at different times depending on when they apply.

 Q. How will I get my benefits?
 A. If your household participates in SNAP, the Virginia SUN Bucks benefits will be loaded onto your existing SNAP EBT card. If your household does not participate in SNAP, your Virginia SUN Bucks benefits will be loaded onto a new Virginia SUN Bucks card that will be mailed to the address on file with your school.

 Q. What can I buy with Virginia SUN Bucks benefits?
 A. You can use your benefits to purchase food such as fruits, vegetables, meat, whole grains and dairy at grocery stores, farmers markers and other places that accept SNAP EBT benefits. Learn more.

Card

 Q. What should I do when I get my SUN Bucks card in the mail?
 A. Your Virginia SUN Bucks card will come in the mail with instructions that show you step-by-step how to activate your SUN Bucks card.

 Q. How do I PIN my card?
 A. There are three ways to PIN your Virginia SUN Bucks card and manage your benefits account. Secure information about how to PIN your card is also included in the envelope your card came with.

Three options:
When the system asks you:
  1. Enter the 16-digit EBT card number located on the front of the card.
  2. Enter the date of birth of the oldest child receiving free or reduced meals.
  3. Enter 0000 when asked for the last four digits of your Social Security number (SSN). If at any time the full SSN is needed, it will be 000-00-0000.
  4. Enter a four-digit pin number (four numbers you will remember), but don't use 1111, 2222, etc. Be sure to keep this PIN secret and do not share it with others.
Learn more about protecting your benefits from card scams.

 Q. How can I check the balance on my card?
 A. It's a good idea to check how much money you have on your card before you go shopping. There are a few ways you can check your balance anytime:
  • Visit www.ConnectEBT.com and select Virginia EBT from the dropdown box.
  • Check your receipt when you make a purchase with the card; your remaining balance will be printed there.
  • Use the point-of-sale device at the store: swipe your card, enter your PIN and do a balance inquiry.
  • Call the customer service number at 866-281-2448, enter your 16-digit number on the front of your card and hear the balance inquiry.

 Q. If I receive a Virginia SUN Bucks card and don't want the benefits, what do I do with the card?
 A. Do not use the card. The benefits will be removed from the card and returned to the USDA Food Nutrition Service after 122 days of non-use. You will receive a letter in the mail 30-45 days before the benefits are removed reminding you about the benefits.

 Q. What should I do if I receive a duplicate benefit or received benefits in error?
 A. Do not use the card and call the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414 to report the mistake.

 Q. I lost my card. What should I do?
 A. To replace a lost card, call ConnectEBT customer service at 866-281-2448 (TTY-relay services for hearing/speech impaired at 800-828-1120) to cancel the lost card and request a new one.

 Q. What should I do with the Virginia SUN Bucks card when my benefits are used up?
 A. Please keep your card because VDSS plans to issue Virginia SUN Bucks benefits on existing cards next year.

 Q. I thought my child was enrolled automatically, but I have yet to receive my card. What should I do?
 A. If you have not received your card by September, please call the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414 (toll-free) or 804-294-1633 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. ‐ 6 p.m. to check the status of your eligibility and benefits issuance.

 Q. I have multiple children. Will I get a card for each child?
 A. If your family receives SNAP benefits, the Virginia SUN Bucks benefits will be loaded onto your existing SNAP EBT card. If you do not receive SNAP benefits, Virginia SUN Bucks benefits should be loaded onto one card for all eligible children in your family.

 Q. When will my Virginia SUN Bucks benefits expire?
 A. Once you receive your benefits, you have 122 days to use them. After 122 days, the benefits will be removed from your card. We'll send you a notice about 30 days before your benefits are set to expire.

 Q. My friend received their Virginia SUN Bucks card, but I haven't. Do I need to reapply?
 A. No. Families eligible to receive this food benefit receive their cards at different times, depending on when their application was received and approved. But if you have not received your benefits by September, please contact the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414.

 Q. What if I'm supposed to get a Virginia SUN Bucks card without applying, but had a recent change in address?
 A. Addresses are generally updated in the VDSS system called VaCMS with information provided by you and/or your child's school. If you believe that you have not received your card because of an incorrect address, contact the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414.

 Q. How do you determine the name of the parent/guardian on the card?
 A. The parent or guardian's name on the card will be determined by how the child is first found eligible for the Virginia SUN Bucks program.
  1. Children who are eligible for this program because of participation in SNAP will have their benefits loaded onto their parent or guardian's SNAP card.
  2. Children who are eligible for this program because of their participation in TANF, certain income-eligible Medicaid programs, or foster care, but do not receive SNAP benefits, will have benefits loaded onto a Virginia SUN Bucks card in the name and address of the parent/guardian on file in the qualifying program.
  3. Children who are eligible for the program because they applied for and receive free or reduced-price meals at school will have a Virginia SUN Bucks card sent in the name of a parent/guardian and address in the school's student information system.
  4. Children who are eligible for the program because they applied for Virginia SUN Bucks by phone or a paper application will receive benefits on a card issued to the parent or guardian and address who applied for the program.
 Q. What if I receive a card with a name on it that is not the parent, guardian or student?
 A. The Virginia SUN Bucks card might be issued in the name of the parent or guardian listed in their school records or in their case file for other benefits or in the student's name. It's fine to use the card that was given to you as long as you're taking care of the student and providing their meals.

If you're not taking care of the child, and the benefits were given to you by mistake, please call the Virginia SUN Bucks Call Center at 866-513-1414 (toll-free) or 804-294-1633 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. ‐ 6 p.m.

 Q. How will unhoused students, those experiencing foster care or migrants get their SUN Bucks benefits?
 A. Children experiencing foster care will get their Virginia SUN Bucks cards sent to the address listed in the file at their local DSS office.

For children who automatically qualify for Virginia SUN Bucks who are unhoused or migrants, the Virginia SUN Bucks card will be sent to the last known address on file with their school or benefits caseworker or to their local DSS office for pickup if no address is known.

If you are submitting a Virginia SUN Bucks application and are unhoused or migrant, please use the address where you receive your mail or the address of your local department of social services.

Additional Questions

 Q. Are there other food programs or resources available for me to secure food for my child?
 A. Yes, you can find that information on the VDSS Food Connections page, as well as on the Virginia Department of Education's Summer Nutrition Programs for Kids page.

 Q. Where can I get program updates?
 A. This Virginia SUN Bucks webpage will be updated regularly with new information about the program, so check back to learn more about the Virginia SUN Bucks and get the latest updates.

Also, follow VDSS on social media (Facebook, Instagram and X) to be the first to know about updates and other announcements about the SUN Bucks program.

 Q. Will participating in Virginia SUN Bucks hurt my immigration status?
 A. No, receiving Virginia SUN Bucks does not affect you, your child or your family's immigration status.

 Q. Does receiving Virginia SUN Bucks disqualify me from other summer food programs?
 A. No, receiving Virginia SUN Bucks does not disqualify your child from participating in other food programs.

For free summer meals for kids, text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304 to find a location in your area for children 18 and under.

 Q. Will I have to apply for Virginia SUN Bucks in 2025 and each year after that?
 A. Unless your child is automatically enrolled in Virginia SUN Bucks in ways outlined in these FAQs, you will have to apply each year because your family's circumstances can change from year to year.

 Q. When I apply for Virginia SUN Bucks, do I need to provide any documents to prove my child is eligible for the benefit?
 A. No, when you apply and sign the application, you will be asked to attest, or promise, that the information you listed on the application is correct and truthful. This process may change in 2025.

 Q. Is Virginia SUN Bucks the same as P-EBT?
 A. No, Virginia SUN Bucks is a new pilot program. It is completely different from Summer P-EBT that ended on September 30, 2023. Just because you received P-EBT before doesn't mean you'll automatically qualify for Virginia SUN Bucks.

Community Partners

 Q. I'm a worker who wants to help families understand Virginia SUN Bucks. What materials do you have?
 A. Thank you for your partnership with Virginia SUN Bucks. We have developed a Community Partner Resources page with translated versions of promotional materials and the SUN Bucks application to help with your outreach efforts.

 Q. As a community partner, can I apply for Virginia SUN Bucks on behalf of a family?
 A. Yes, you can apply for the benefit on behalf of a family as long as you have the necessary information to complete the application.

Appeal Process

 Q. If my child is denied Virginia SUN Bucks, how can I appeal the decision?
 A. If you disagree with a denial in your Virginia SUN Bucks case, you have the right to appeal and request a fair hearing. A fair hearing means that an official will review the facts of your case in a fair and objective manner as required by law.

The procedures for appeals and fair hearings related to Virginia SUN Bucks eligibility will generally follow the current appeal and fair hearing procedures for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Hearing procedures will provide an opportunity for families to appeal an eligibility determination made by VDSS and give VDSS an opportunity to challenge the continued eligibility of the child.

To appeal your Virginia SUN Bucks denial decision and request a fair hearing, you may start the appeal and fair hearing process either in writing or by phone.

All written requests for appeals may be submitted by mail to the following address by Dec. 1, 2024:
Virginia SUN Bucks Appeals c/o Benefit Programs
Virginia Department of Social Services
5600 Cox Road
Glen Allen, VA 23060

Individuals may also request a Virginia SUN Bucks appeal by calling 804-726-7000 by Dec. 1, 2024.

 Q. What do I need for my request to appeal?
 A. You need to include information that would allow us to identify and contact you regarding your request, including your case number on the denial notice. Also include what you are appealing and why you believe the denial determination is in error.

 Q. What takes place in the Virginia SUN Bucks appeal and fair hearing process?
 A. The first step is to hold a virtual or phone pre-hearing meeting. In the pre-hearing meeting, we will discuss the reason for the denial, and you can explain why you think you are eligible for Virginia SUN Bucks. At the meeting, you may be represented by an authorized representative, legal counsel, relative or friend. Your failure to request or participate in a pre-hearing meeting has no effect on your right to appeal and have a fair hearing, or on your right to continued participation.

If you want to continue the process after the pre-hearing meeting, then your information is forwarded to VDSS Appeals and Fair Hearings, who will ensure that:
  • The fair hearing will be held quickly and easily, and you will be given adequate notice about the time and place of the hearing, which is usually conducted virtually by phone or video conference.
  • The hearing will be conducted, and the decision made, by a hearing official who did not participate in making the initial decision to deny benefits or in any previously held conference.
  • Prior to and during the fair hearing, you can:
    • Be helped or represented by an attorney or other person.
    • Examine, before and during the hearing, any documents and records presented to support the decision under appeal.
    • Present verbal evidence or documents supporting your position without unnecessary interference.
    • Question or deny any testimony or other evidence and confront and cross-examine any opposing witnesses.
The hearing official's decision will be based on the verbal evidence and documents presented at the hearing and made a part of the hearing record.

 Q. Can I get free legal help?
 A. You may be able to get free legal help from Virginia Legal Aid by calling 866-534-5243 or visiting www.valegalaid.org for more information.
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