“I have received word from the Department of Agriculture officials in Washington and in the Western Regional Office of the that they will be notifying the Governor probably this week that there is another $1.459 million available for the NMI .
“I have written to Secretary Vilsack to say thank you. These are difficult times in the Northern Marianas; and families on food stamps need all the help they can get.”
Kilili asked Vilsack for the extra funding in February after passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did not include the Marianas in a 13.86% across-the-board increase in food stamp benefits nationally.
“The NMI doesn’t participate in the food stamp program by statute, so when the statute was changed we were left out,” said Sablan.
Sablan lobbied Vilsack to correct the oversight; and the Secretary agreed to reprogram $1.459 million to give the Northern Marianas the same 13.86% increase as the rest of the country.
Vilsack also agreed to keep the Northern Marianas at par in the event of future changes in the benefit amount. In a May 8 letter to House and Senate appropriations subcommittee chairs Vilsack wrote that “[f]uture funding increases for CNMI will be aligned with [American Samoa] and [Puerto Rico].”
Sablan said that the local government will still be required to submit a budget for expenditure of the new money for approval by the Western Regional Office in order to begin drawing down the money. He said he had written the Governor to give him a heads up on this requirement.
“My hope is that the Governor will budget the full $1.459 million for benefits and not remove anything for administrative costs,” Kilili said.
“Food stamp recipients in the Northern Marianas deserve the same 13.86% increases as food stamp recipients everywhere in the U.S.”
The CNMI was scheduled to receive $10.7 million from the food stamp program in FY09. Because of Kilili’s efforts the CNMI will now get $12.1 million.(PR) will soon be available for recipients in the NMI.