The V.I. Department of Human Services has received federal approval to implement a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, program to provide food assistance for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, greenlighted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service program, will assist roughly 15,000 children and deliver more than $5.6 million to the territory, according to a news release from the Department of Human Services.

Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said agency officials partnered with the V.I. Department of Education and eligible local private schools “to make P-EBT a reality for our territory.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused high unemployment and an economic downturn in the Virgin Islands, but DHS is committed to keeping our Virgin Islands children safe, secure and healthy during these challenging times,” sne said, adding that DHS is working with its EBT vendor to begin issuing the benefits next month.

The news release provided the following guidelines on the P-EBT program:

Each student enrolled in V.I. public schools and private schools who participates in the School Lunch program will receive a one-time benefit of $379 in July.

The benefit amount, determined by the federal agencies, will be placed on an EBT card and issued to the adult identified by the school as the parent or guardian for that student.

A parent or guardian responsible for more than one eligible student in their household will receive the total amount for all eligible students on the same card. For example, three students in a household multiplied by $379 equals a total benefit amount of $1,137.

P-EBT benefits for eligible students whose families currently receive SNAP will be loaded to the household’s existing EBT card.

P-EBT benefits for eligible students not currently receiving SNAP will be mailed to the parent or guardian’s address provided to DHS by the school.

P-EBT users will be provided with instructions on how to set-up and utilize the card to access their benefits.

P-EBT benefits can be used to purchase food items at the stores of authorized SNAP retailers.

P-EBT benefits are not transferable. Recipients should shred their cards if they do not want the benefits.

DHS encourages parents or guardians to contact the Department of Education or their private school to update their mailing address and contact information.

In addition to all public schools, the following private schools will be eligible for P-EBT assistance:

St. Croix

• St. Croix Christian Academy

• Church of God Academy

• Free Will Baptist School

• Reading Rainbow School

• St. Joseph’s Catholic School

• St. Mary’s Catholic School

• St. Patrick’s Catholic School

St. John

• St. John Christian School

St. Thomas

• All Saints Cathedral School

• Bethel Baptist Day School

• Calvary Christian Academy

• Faith Alive Christian Academy

• Moravian School

• Nisky Moravian School

• New Testament Academy

• Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School

• Tutu Church of God Holiness School

• Wesleyan Academy

For more information, visit the Human Services website at www.dhs.gov.vi or on Facebook at Virgin Islands Department of Human Services.