San Juan – Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón announced Friday the approval of the plan submitted by Puerto Rico for the Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) program by the federal Department of Agriculture, USDA for its acronym in English.
This program is designed to increase the food security of students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of interruptions or irregularities in school hours.
“This is a very special achievement. Our students have been particularly affected by COVID-19, as have students in the states. P-EBT adds to the tools available through USDA to counter hunger and need during the pandemic. It was inconceivable that we were left out of the program. We can now continue to work with more resources and alternatives for our people as we continue to face the pandemic, ”the resident commissioner said in written statements.
Originally, P-EBT was approved as an alternative for jurisdictions that operate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – known as SNAP for its acronym in English.
Since Puerto Rico has the Nutrition Assistance Program, known as PAN, instead of SNAP, it was excluded from this initiative, along with the territories of American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Since then, the commissioner has advocated for the inclusion of the island through letters and conversations with the leadership of the federal House and Senate during discussions of legislation to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. P-EBT was extended to Puerto Rico through a Joint Resolution tested in September 2020.
“For many students on the island and in the rest of the nation, changes and interruptions in school hours have caused their access to food that they receive regularly through school canteens to be complicated. The Pandemic-EBT program has proven to be crucial in ensuring that students have more food alternatives during the pandemic. It is for this reason that advocating for P-EBT to be extended to Puerto Rico remained one of my highest priorities during negotiations of legislation packages for COVID-19, ”he said.
P-EBT will allow students who participate in USDA-funded school feeding programs and who have noticed an interruption in school hours, which complicates access to school cafeteria meals, to receive a monthly monetary benefit equivalent to the days or hours closing that occurred consecutively for a minimum of 5 days.
It is estimated that Puerto Rico will provide P-EBT benefits to about 327,000 students for the school period that covers from August 2020 to May 2021.
This equates to about $ 390.7 million in federal funding. The Puerto Rico Department of the Family is the agency in charge of administering the program and will be providing more information regarding student participation as it becomes available.