USDA releases $966M in PAN funds to Puerto Rico in response to COVID-19
The US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service announced the release of $966.12 million in additional Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN, in Spanish) funds to help Puerto Rico residents “who are still struggling from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
More than 1.5 million Puerto Rico residents — nearly half of the island’s population — participate in the PAN program, the agency confirmed.
The funds released were made available as part of $1 billion in additional nutrition assistance funding, provided in the American Rescue Plan, for the US territories.
The funds will provide increased PAN elderly household benefits of $11 — a nearly 20% increase — for up to 12 months. Furthermore, all PAN households will receive an additional $58 in benefits to their standard monthly allotment of $112 for a one-person household, the agency stated.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA has invested more than $730 million in Puerto Rico’s Pandemic EBT and has provided more than $940 million in benefits for Puerto Rico’s Child Nutrition Programs, PAN, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), it stated.
Prior to the pandemic, almost 200,000 children in Puerto Rico relied on school meals.
“P-EBT funds will allow eligible school children who were learning virtually due to school closures to receive temporary emergency nutrition benefits loaded on EBT cards to replace the value of lost school meals,” the agency stated.
Nearly 100,000 participants in the WIC program received a temporary increase to $35 per child and adult, per month on their WIC cash-value voucher. These additional funds will increase the purchasing power of WIC participants so they can buy and consume more healthy fruits and vegetables.
The Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program received more than $2.6 million for food distribution costs for emergency feeding organizations, including food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens.
PAN participants also received temporarily higher benefits — an increase from $122 to $234 for a single participant — for three to four months as part of the $597 million in additional funding allocated to Puerto Rico in the Consolidated Appropriation Act 2021.