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Nearly $600 million allocated for PAN, equaling funding levels in states


By John McPhaul

jpmcphaul@gmail.com


The federal allocation of $597 million granted to Puerto Rico and approved through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was transferred to the island government and will be distributed beginning this week to the 854,216 families currently enrolled in the Nutrition Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym).


The funds transfer was announced Sunday by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, along with Family Secretary Carmen Ana González Magaz and Alberto Fradera Vázquez, head of the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration (ADSEF by its Spanish acronym).


“The plan submitted to and approved by the federal government ensures that the assistance is to be disbursed expeditiously, achieving a positive impact on the well being of low-income families, who will have additional support for their healthy diet and strengthening of their health,” the governor said.


Pierluisi said PAN allocation makes the benefits for island families that use the program equal to the benefits that a family of similar composition in the states receives.


“For an approximate period of three to four months, families participating in the PAN program will see their benefits doubled,” the governor said. “That’s the gap we mean when we advocate for equal treatment in federal programs, and this program is no exception. Ensuring that our families have secure food assistance while looking for opportunities to enter the labor market is a fundamental part of the efforts of my administration.”


The Family secretary expressed her satisfaction, noting that the allocated resources allow supporting vulnerable populations such as adults over 60 years of age. Currently there are 382,176 people over 60 in Puerto Rico who are assisted by the PAN program, of which 219,718 live alone.


“Through these funds we also ensure the health and well being of the elderly who participate in the program and who mostly live alone in their home, ensuring that they have more resources for their food, particularly in the face of the challenge of COVID-19,” González Magaz said. “For example, in a household of one the maximum benefit for a person over 60 years of age will be $280 per month, while currently the maximum benefit is $134 per month.”


Fradera Vázquez, the ADSEF administrator, detailed the days of the disbursements, pointing out that all are dates in which no regular distributions of the PAN occur, so they do not expect crowded grocery stores as a side effect. Issue dates begin this Tuesday and end next Wednesday, March 31. All families that were active in the PAN program as of March of this year receive the increase in benefits.


“The [allocations] will be reflected in the accounts of the Family Card automatically, according to the last digit of the Social Security number of the head of the family,” Fradera Vázquez said. “Participants do not have to bother with any formalities with the office to receive these resources. Two digits of Social Security will be covered in each issuance, leaving one day between each issuance, to allow adequate supply in [food markets].”


Likewise, the ADSEF chief revealed that the Family Market program is being strengthened since it also is receiving an increase during this period. He encouraged participants to consult the Family Markets calendar and the list of certified businesses in the PAN at www.adsef.pr.gov. He also recommended that families establish a user account at www.ebtpr.com to check their transactions and disbursements.


Fradera Vázquez made a point of encouraging families to make good use of the benefits and to follow the regulations for the use of the program.


“It is important that we all ensure the integrity of the use of funds and that they reach families in great need,” he said. “The fraudulent use of the resources of the Family Card will not be tolerated.”

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