‘Use $17M to make more eligible for food aid’

Jul 20, 2018

Saipan Tribune - WASHINGTON, D.C.— Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP) has asked Gov. Ralph DLG Torres—again—to use $17 million in available federal funds to feed families in need.

“You have not yet responded to my letter of June 12, recommending that you raise income thresholds, so that more families in the Marianas qualify for federal food assistance,” Sablan wrote the governor on Tuesday.

Now, a Marianas family of four cannot get food aid if their income is greater than $17,412. Sablan estimated that the CNMI could afford to increase the cap to $25,000, the federal poverty line. That would cover more households earning minimum wage, on fixed incomes, or retirees.

“Your administration has previously criticized me for not consulting with you on this issue. Yet, when I did consult with you in my June 12 letter, you failed even to acknowledge receipt.

“More important, by your silence you fail to explain to the people of the Marianas why federal resources that should ensure families have enough to eat instead sit idle, unused.

“You owe these families an explanation,” Sablan said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Commonwealth will have a surplus of $23 million this fiscal year, $18 million next year, $16 million in 2020, and $17 million in 2021. These projections include the benefits increase that began on May 1.

“The governor made the right choice to raise benefits to the national SNAP level in May,” Sablan said. “That has long been one of my goals.

“But I also want income standards to go up—as they are in Guam.

“Because of the money I put into the 2014 Agricultural Act the Commonwealth has millions it can use to help families now. I am asking the governor, again, to take action.”

As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Sablan added $30.5 million for the Marianas in Section 4031 of the Agricultural Act, Public Law 113-79. He was also able to increase the Marianas annual food stamp block grant from $10.6 million in 2009 to $12.148 million today. (PR)