Distribution of $6.3M P-EBT coupons starts on Saipan this Saturday

DCCA Tinian, Rota will have separate distribution schedule

Walter Macaranas

The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and the Public School System, through the Nutrition Assistance Program, will start distributing on Saipan this Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, an estimated $6.3 million in Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program, or P-EBT, for thousands of children in schools and child care providers in school year 2021-2022.

This distribution, according to NAP administrator Walter Macaranas said over the weekend, is Phase 1; distribution of Phase 2 P-EBT is tentatively set for March 11, 2023.

P-EBT is a federal program that provides food stamp benefits to school-aged children who lost access to school meals because their school was closed or was operating with reduced hours for at least five consecutive days due to the COVID-19 pandemic in a school year.

Macaranas said each eligible child will receive a value of $8.28 per day of food stamp benefits in lieu of reimbursement of school meals.

Approximately 10,895 children have been validated for P-EBT benefits in both public and private schools.

Macaranas said NAP and PSS’ Child Nutrition Program have been working to validate school-submitted information to prepare for the distribution of P-EBT benefits to children who were enrolled in school year 2021-2022.

For Phase 1, the distribution on Saipan will be at the NAP office in As Lito from 8am to 5pm and it will be based on the last name of the primary contact who was listed as the parent or legal guardian in their child’s school record.

Here is the distribution schedule:

First letter of last name Date
A to B Dec. 10
C to D Dec. 11
E to K Dec. 12
L to N Dec. 13
O to R Dec. 14
S to T Dec. 15
U to Z Dec. 16
OPEN DAY Dec. 17

Open day is the designated date for households who will not be able to pick up their benefits based on their scheduled date.

Macaranas said identification cards will be required and households will be required to provide a government-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license, passport, municipal ID, U.S. permanent resident card, or others.

The identity of the parent or legal guardian will be verified against the list of eligible households.

Macaranas said P-EBT benefits will be issued via drive-thru at the NAP office grounds in As Lito.

For Tinian and Rota, a separate distribution schedule will be facilitated by the DCCA offices on the islands.

Approximately 490 and 471 children will be receiving benefits on Tinian and Rota, respectively.

Phase 1 is based on schoolwide closures and in-person attendance.

During the last school year, Macaranas said, COVID-19 cases were sporadic, which may have affected one school but not other schools, thus do not require systematic statewide shutdown.

For this instance, he said, the number of closure days and in-person attendance will vary from school to school in both public and private.

The NAP administrator said parents and/or guardians will not be required to submit an application for P-EBT for their children for Phase 1.

All school-aged children in public and private schools are eligible for P-EBT if their school was closed or operating with reduced hours for at least five consecutive days during semester year 2021-2022.

Children under the age of 6 are defined as NAP-enrolled children in child care.

Macaranas said information and data for the children in child care are still being processed so those children will not be included in Phase 1.

He said Phase 2 will be based on individual cases, or per student case.

During last school year, a student may have been required to isolate at home or at a designated quarantine facility, which only affected such student but did not affect the entire classroom or school.

Macaranas said a statewide system to record an absence as COVID-19 related absence is not available.

Macaranas said schools recorded absences as excused or not-excused but not all schools recorded those absences as COVID-related absences. In these circumstances, he said, there is no feasible data for P-EBT purposes to include these individualized COVID-related absences in Phase 1.

He said the prudent process planned for Phase 2 is to require parents/an or guardians to submit an attestation for their children’s COVID-related absences that were not covered in Phase 1.

An attestation form, similar to an application form, will be made available to parents to fill out and the form certified by their child’s school (on enrollment) during semester year 2021-2022.

He said the completed form, after it has been certified by the school, must be submitted to the PSS Child Nutrition Program office on Capital Hill Building No. 1251.

Jan. 17, 2023, is the deadline for attestation forms to be submitted to the CNP.

Macaranas said all forms will be processed by CNP for data compilation, which will then be submitted to NAP for the processing of P-EBT distribution.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service administrator Cynthia Long notified FNS Western Regional Officed regional director Jesus Mendoza Jr. last Nov. 3 of the approval of the CNMI’s state plan to operate another P-EBT Program, estimated at $6.3 million, for thousands of children in schools and child care in school year 2021-2022 in the CNMI.

In August 2021, DCCA started distributing P-EBT coupons in the CNMI. In November 2021, DCCA started distributing summer P-EBT coupons in the CNMI.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.