USDA OKs Puerto Rico’s plan to issue $173M to children during summer
The US Department of Agriculture announced the approval of a plan submitted by the Puerto Rico government to provide about $173 million in food benefits to eligible children during the summer months.
Through the Pandemic EBT program, some 304,400 school children enrolled in the Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN, in Spanish) will benefit during the summer, receiving $138.5 million of the allocation. Another 76,500 children under six years old who are in childcare will receive the remaining $34.8 million, the federal agency stated.
Last month, the USDA confirmed it had approved the plans summitted by the Department of the Family and the Puerto Rico Department of Education to issue Pandemic-EBT benefits through the island’s PAN program.
“In general, school children are eligible for benefits if they would have received free or reduced-price meals at their schools through the National School Lunch Program, if not for the closure or reduced attendance or hours of their schools,” according to a document signed by Cindy Long, administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
“Puerto Rico and its school districts will identify the children who were eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals as of the end of the school year 2021-2022,” she said.
As part of the plan, the local government will issue the standard benefit of $455 to all eligible children and tentatively issue a single benefit for the entire summer period from July 2-22, according to the plan it submitted and for which it received approval from the USDA.
The local government has established an application submission window of June and July, with a July 31 deadline for households of children who become newly eligible during the covered summer period.
“This will allow new eligible children to enter the program before the end of the summer. The Puerto Rico Department of Education commits to work their eligibility as soon as they are received, so in case the child is eligible, the Family Department’s Socio-Economic Development Administration will issue the summer benefits before the school year 2022-23 starts in August 2022.
As for children in childcare, those identified as eligible will receive a minimum of $227, and if the public health emergency due to COVID-19 continues through the end of summer, they too will receive $455.
“For far too long, millions of families have struggled to keep their kids fed and healthy during the summer while schools are out,” said Long. “Child food benefits can bridge the gap and help families provide the nourishment their children deserve. These benefits can help American families in need cope with rising food costs.”
The benefits will be loaded onto a debit card that can be used to purchase food, the federal agency noted.