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The participants of Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN) who use their card to purchase prepared foods will have to go to those establishments certified by the Family Socioeconomic Development Administration (ADSEF), although not all of the 3,085 establishments included in the list necessarily sell prepared food.
This waiver that allows beneficiaries to purchase hot food was announced yesterday, Tuesday, by the governor Peter Pierluisi after the passage of Hurricane Fiona that left the entire island in the dark. This waiver will only be available until Sunday, September 25.
The list of businesses includes supermarkets, bakeries, pharmacies and gas stations that have a cafeteria area and that have been certified at the federal level, explained the administrator of ADSEF, Alberto Fradera Vázquez. Although the list is “constantly updated”, the inclusion of restaurants is not expected.
“This requires programming, this requires regulations, it requires certifying these businesses. This is a process that involves logistics that we cannot. The federal government doesn’t allow me to say ‘look, you can accept it now’. You have to comply with some requirements of the federal government, “explained Fradera Vázquez.
“This waiver that we request from the federal government is requested as part of Puerto Rico’s effort to make it easier for families to have access to food as Puerto Rico’s recovery processes continue to advance. We must remember that our businesses have to comply with federal regulations and, when they do not comply with them, they are exposed to a fine and lose their certification, ”he added.
Due to the havoc caused by the atmospheric phenomenon, specifically in the municipalities of the south and west of the island, Fradera Vázquez did not rule out the possibility of extending the waiver date. However, this will remain in the hands of the federal government.
“The emergency continues. Every day we have meetings in the morning with the entire government component. We are very attentive to the recovery process and, if it is understood prudent, request an additional extension from the federal government for this ‘waiver’, so we will be doing it”, he assured, mentioning that a plan is also being worked on to make this program permanent for elderly and homeless people.
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Will there be an additional incentive?
The possibility that PAN participants will see some additional incentive, especially those who lost food due to the interruption of electricity service, will also depend on the federal government.
This is because the PAN is a block grant program with a cap of $2.5 billion annually to be distributed among the 800,000 participating families, which is equivalent to 1.5 million people.
“We have totally different restrictions than the regulations of the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the States and, unfortunately, we do not have access to the Emergency Fund immediately. If we were SNAP, well, long ago we would have been able to access those emergency funds and we would not only be assisting our participants, but also all citizens who had been affected by this emergency who had losses in their homes. We hope that in a moment we can receive the disbursement of an additional allocation to be able to assist our families, ”he said.
On the other hand, he indicated that the money for the family market will not be allocated for the purchase of food or hot food.
“We must remember that this program has two purposes: the main one is to provide nutritious food to our families in Puerto Rico and that is guaranteed by family markets and, number two, to also support what Puerto Rico produces. Our farmers have been affected by this emergency and to suspend this program at this time, as it would also be affecting this sector that contributes too much to Puerto Rico and families,” he said, assuring that he hopes that these markets will resume at the end of this week or next week.