Senator Amanda Shelton wants children and families to have greater access to nutritious food as the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on food security linger.
Shelton is asking the Department of Public Health and Social Services to apply for the Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, a pandemic response benefit offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that she says Guam is eligible for.
“Sustained access to nutritious food, which is also known as food security, is a very real problem for thousands of Guam families,” Shelton said in a news release. “And the P-EBT is an opportunity to address it and ensure children continue to have access to nutritious meals despite this global pandemic.”
All children who receive free or reduced-price school meals can qualify for P-EBT. In Guam this essentially means all public-school students. Students from families that have never met the income qualifications for SNAP assistance are also eligible.
Shelton spoke at a DPHSS legislative oversight hearing Friday:
“I am wondering if the department has applied for this Pandemic EBT Program or if you have any plans to? This program will actually reach a different set of people beyond those under SNAP program already receiving the maximum benefit, but it seems that we can reach a broader base here. I am just wondering if we have any hope is this program for Guam?”
DPHSS officials acknowledged they have not applied for the P-BET benefits.
“This can be a significant opportunity for Guam. We heard of the very limited resources available for families who are struggling and need direct food assistance. No child should go hungry, and every child receiving free lunch is eligible to receive P-EBT,” Shelton says.
Senator Shelton says these are extraordinary times and recognizes that DPHSS has its hands full as the lead response agency to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Because of this the Senator says she and her staff stand ready to assist with the increase processing for P-EBT benefits if Guam is approved.
Guam Department of Education and Charter Schools currently have over 30,000 students. P-EBT benefits are based on the SY2019-2020 National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) reimbursement rates. Based on Guam’s rates, each child is eligible for $33.30 for a 5 day period or $133.20 for a 4 week period.