THE Department of Community and Cultural Affairs-Nutrition Assistance Program and the Public School System-Child Nutrition Program are administering the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer or P-EBT program that provides food benefits to school-age children who lost access to school meals because their school was closed or operating with reduced in-person attendance due to Covid-19.

The P-EBT is funded by the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2021 or U.S. Public Law 116-159.

PSS-CNP Director Dale Roberts said all school-age children on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota — from pre-school to 12th grade — are eligible for P-EBT benefits.

A child must be enrolled in school to be considered for P-EBT benefits.

The P-EBT program is separate from the grab-and-go meals program — a school-age child may continue to receive both.

Young children under the age of 6 and children in child-care centers may be eligible for P-EBT benefits if they are members of households that received Nutrition Assistance Program or NAP benefits anytime from Oct. 1, 2020 up to June 11, 2021.

NAP Administrator Walter Macaranas said P-EBT benefits are in the form of NAP coupons that will be distributed to eligible households and will be used in the same manner as NAP coupons — they can only be redeemed for food and eligible items at NAP-authorized retailers and vendors.

Households must register for the P-EBT program by submitting a paper P-EBT application.

Applications will be disseminated to children in schools to bring home, and to parents for children in childcare centers.

Parents are encouraged to submit these applications to the PSS Child Nutrition Program office on Capital Hill, Building No. 1251 or the Nutrition Assistance Program office in As Lito.

Schools and childcare centers will distribute P-EBT applications, but will not accept them.

The P-EBT benefit amount a school-age child can receive will be based on the child’s school-learning model, or the school’s predominant school schedule.

Private schools have varying virtual learning (not in-person) schedule each month.

Essentially, a school meal is missed for each school day a child was not in school but was instead learning from home.

As for public schools and Head Start centers, all children will receive the same amount of P-EBT benefits.

Children in Early Head Start are considered to be in the young children cluster, which means that they must be a member of a household receiving NAP benefits anytime since October 1, 2020 to be considered for P-EBT benefits.

According to Macaranas, P-EBT benefits will be retroactive to the start of school year 2020-21 when schools started in August or September 2020.

He estimated that a PSS school-age child could receive between $800 and $900 in P-EBT benefits for the entire school year.

School-age children in private schools may receive less because their school schedule incorporated more in-person learning.

P-EBT benefits are expected to be distributed on a staggered schedule at the end of next month. 

If things go as planned, Macaranas said, the first round of P-EBT benefits will cover the months of August 2020 to November 2020.

The benefits that will be issued in July 2021 will cover the months of December 2020 to March 2021 wile the benefits issued in August 2021 will be for the months for April 2021 to June 2021, Macaranas said.

The deadline to submit P-EBT applications is June 11, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. P-EBT benefits will be distributed at NAP.

For more information about the P-EBT program, visit the PSS and NAP websites at cnmipss.org or cnminap.gov.mp or call the P-EBT contact center at  287-3063 to 287-3065.

Reporter

K-Andrea is a Gates Millennium Scholar who earned her bachelor of arts degree in political science from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. Since joining the MV team in Feb. 2020, she has been covering the political, environmental, and community beats.

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