More P-EBT benefits for eligible students being discussed

FOOD AID: Parents and guardians line up to receive Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer cards Aug. 10 at Micronesia Mall in Dededo. The cards allow students to receive roughly $2,000 in temporary emergency nutrition benefits funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than 500 cards were distributed that day. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

Students eligible for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, cards may be receiving additional benefits as the Guam Department of Education is in discussions with the Food and Nutrition Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

P-EBT, a type of food stamp card, was provided to eligible GDOE students to cover missed school meals due to pandemic-related school closures last school year.

According to Janela Carrera, Department of Public Health and Social Services spokeswoman, 14,239 parents were served and 26,094 cards were issued as of Nov. 19. The cards were issued as part of the first round of assistance, which provided eligible students with $1,243.32 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

School-age students are eligible if they received free or reduced-price school meals under national school meal programs. The program covers students who received meals through their schools' participation in the Community Eligibility Provision, but did not receive meals at school due to pandemic-related closures or virtual learning, Joint Information Center officials stated.

Two weeks into the new school year, GDOE's 41 public schools closed their doors for three weeks as a result of an increase in COVID-19 community cases at the time. Schools were closed from Aug. 30 to Sept. 27.

Because the school closures were a result of the pandemic, more pandemic relief for students is being discussed, according to Public Health.

"The Food and Nutrition Service guidance was received. GDOE is in discussion with FNS about it. GDOE would have to complete the plan for it," Carrera said.

Although the P-EBT is a Public Health program and the department is in charge of card distribution and benefits issuance, Carrera said, public school students are GDOE constituents, and information about eligible students would have to come from GDOE.

Neither GDOE nor Public Health could provide details about how much assistance students would see or if the same calculations for cost of meals used previously would apply.

"We don't have any of that information, as GDOE would still have to develop the plan for FNS," Carrera said.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said, "We defer to DPHSS for all public information related to P-EBT."

"Our role is to provide them underlying student information and dates of closure, but they will provide information regarding timing and the amount authorized for any future distribution," Fernandez said.

The formula used previously was set by the USDA at a daily rate of $7.97 for students in the U.S. territories.

P-EBT benefits are valid for one year from issuance date.

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