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Snags for families who added children to their P-EBT records

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Department of Human Social Services confirms certain families have attempted to “add additional children to their P-EBT records after they picked up their regular P-EBT benefits last year,” which has led to “major delays.”

“As a fraud prevention measure, our computer system automatically closed these cases.”

This is according to Director Muavaefaatasi John Suisala in response to Samoa News questions.

Regarding an update on the program since it started distributing the benefits last week, the department has issued a total of $1,472,380 million in benefits to 1,392 households for 3,246 school children in the first three days of the mass issuance of benefits for the Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (Summer P-EBT) program. 

“The issuance process has been moving smoothly since we started issuing benefits last week Wednesday, January 18, 2023. 

“The waiting time depends on when you arrive and the number of people waiting to be served. 

“It takes time for an Issuance Worker to print out, validate and count $455 in food coupons per child so when we have a lobby and tents full of clients all at once, they will have to wait their turn as the Issuance Workers are doing their best to serve all authorized representatives/ parents to make sure they receive the correct amounts of benefits for their children,” explained the director.

The $1.47 million already distributed this month as part of the $6.4 million confirmed by Gov. Lemanu P. S. Mauga for approximately 14,000 public and private school children.

“This is the second year that American Samoa is participating in the Summer P-EBT which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

“Although FNS approved American Samoa’s 2022 Summer P-EBT State Plan on September 26, 2022, for all school children who were eligible for school meals during School Year 2021-2022 that ended on June 10, 2022, funding to implement the Summer P-EBT was not available until December 1, 2022.

“Moreover, the shipment of special coupon paper to print Summer P-EBT benefits arrived by air freight on Saturday, December 24, 2022, and was delivered to the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program (ASNAP) office on Wednesday, December 28, 2022, after it was cleared by the Customs Office and released by the Office of Procurement,” said Lemanu.

The director did not outline how many families that are encountering “major delays” after attempts to add additional students on their P-EBT benefits.

“These parents are informed to wait for our call as our MIS/IT staff and our off-island contractor has to reinstate their records and restore benefits for their households for their approved children only — without the children that they tried to add.

“Other delays are experienced by parents who showed up to pick up benefits for their children whose authorized representatives/ parents who picked up their benefits last year have passed away. 

“These parents are sent to the DOE to update their student records and to obtain verification.”

He said similarly, individuals who showed up to pick up benefits for children whose parents are off-island are asked to wait for the children's parents to return to pick up their benefits unless they demonstrate that these parents are on extended medical treatment and will not be back in time to pick up their children's benefits. 

“They are also sent to DOE to update the student records and for verification.”