Kilili thanks Torres for response

Jul 23, 2018

Saipan Tribune - Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), in his response to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ accusations of using the Enhanced Nutritional Assistance Program and Nutritional Assistance Program for political gain, instead thanked the governor for information regarding the programs.

In a letter released to Saipan Tribune over the weekend, Sablan remained grateful to Torres even after the governor, in his four-page letter in response to an earlier letter from Sablan asking to spend ENAP and NAP funding federal money, called out the delegate for using the programs as a “political tool.”

“Your [Torres] very long reply contains the answer I was looking for: the surplus funds ‘will likely be reduced drastically following the NAP-[Food and Nutrition Services] meetings schedule[d] to take place next month, where the FNS will make determinations on an increase to eligibility benefits that will put us at or close to Guam eligibility levels,’” wrote Sablan in his July 19, 2018 letter, while citing Torres’ July 18, 2018 letter to the delegate.

“This is welcome news to the thousands in the Marianas with incomes below the federal poverty line,” said Sablan, noting that for a family of four, the poverty line is $25,100 per annum.

“I am sure these families would like to know exactly who will qualify and when you plan to start using the millions of federal dollars you have to help them,” continued Sablan in his letter.

Sablan in a June 12, 2018 letter noted that come 2021, the CNMI government would be sitting on $10.1 million from the 2014 Agricultural Act. Torres in response, issued a four-page letter dated July 18, 2018, clarifying that the amount according to figures obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FNS Western Regional Office, noted a surplus of $5.9 million come 2021. The money was set aside for the NAP and ENAP.

Torres further noted that the $5.9 million would be further whittled down when the NAP-FNS meetings, scheduled for August 2018, convenes. According to Torres’ letter, the FNS would make determinations to increase eligibility benefits to benefits similar to Guam’s.

Sablan’s letter disregarded the rest of Torres’ accusations of suddenly turning a new leaf after complimenting the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, which administers the NAP and ENAP program, in January 2018 and then calling them out on accusations of NAP and ENAP mismanagement soon after.

Sablan said that once Torres announces the raise in benefits after the FNS meetings in August 2018, he will “unhesitatingly congratulate” the governor as he did in January 2018, when the Torres administration announced a raise in benefits.

“It was only afterwards that I learned from Republican staff of the House Agriculture Committee—and then confirmed with the USDA—you had some $20 million you were not using. That news made me press you for action,” wrote Sablan.