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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Food stamp funding for this fiscal year under negotiation

Although fiscal year 2013 already started in October last year, new funding for the government’s food stamp program has yet to be finalized, according to Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Melvin Faisao Wednesday.

Faisao disclosed that negotiations are still ongoing for a new “memorandum of understanding” for the current fiscal year.

For the moment, the program is using carryover money from fiscal year 2012.

The Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamp, was approved a budget of $12.148 million in fiscal year 2012, of which $741,373 remains to be spent, Faisao said.

“Last month, I officially informed the Finance Department to draw these carryover funds until exhausted, to pay for [fiscal year] 2013 benefits effectively immediately while the new MOU is still being negotiated,” Faisao told Saipan Tribune.

He pointed out that the federal law that established the national NAP authorizes the use of unspent funds for the next program year.

The program has 3,518 total household cases as of January, which translates to 9,522 individual beneficiaries on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Northern Islands.

In the absence of a final budget for NAP in fiscal year 2013, Faisao said there will be no changes in the amount of benefits that will be disbursed to eligible clients.

For program beneficiaries who have been receiving lesser amounts, Faisao explained that among the elements factored in the calculation of their benefits is their inclusion in the Supplemental Security Income with the federal Social Security program.

NAP benefits are also determined by the number of people in a household, income and assets, and expenses for items such as housing and utilities.

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