CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes a benefit called Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) for children who received free or reduced-price school meals in the 2019-2020 school year, but their school is or was closed during a public health emergency.
“The Department of Human Services (DHS) apologizes for the delay in the issuance of Pandemic EBT benefits,” DHS spokeswoman Michelle Francis said this evening. “The Department has been diligently working to address a number of hurdles that presented themselves, including getting accurate mailing addresses from the Department of Education for thousands of students and also working through the final detailed steps of the contracting process with our federal partners.”
Once the DHS system is operational, U.S. Virgin Islands parents with children attending public school can expect to see a one-time only benefit of $379 per school-age child on their existing EBT card.
“DHS is working to ensure that P-EBT can begin to be issued in the next two weeks,” Francis said in a prepared statement sent at 5:58 p.m. today.
DHS said the thousands of files for current SNAP and non-SNAP families with children who attended public and private schools (from schools that participated in the School Lunch Program) are being uploaded to the “EBT contractor system.”
“They will test the upload and when that test is successful, P-EBT cards for non-SNAP families will be prepared and mailed and P-EBT will be placed on the existing EBT cards of current SNAP recipients,” Francis said.
“As soon as DHS gets word that the vendor system test was successful and issuance is on its way, the Department will share the exact dates via press release, radio, social media and our website,” she said.
Once the P-EBT system is operational, families will be able to call a “dedicated phone line” and send emails to a DHS email address to ask about P-EBT benefits, according to DHS.
DHS said in late July that the $379 per child one-time payments would be ready in August. Now in August, with today’s announcement, the Department is saying P-EBT will be ready at the latest by early September.
For more information, please go to the Department of Human Services’ website at: www.dhs.gov.vi
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 provides the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture authority to approve state agency plans for temporary emergency standards of eligibility and levels of benefits under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.
Children who would receive free or reduced price meals under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act if not for the school closure are eligible under this provision.
State agencies may submit plans in any case in which a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.