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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fewer food stamp recipients

The volume of low-income individuals who avail of the government’s Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamp, continues to drop, with nearly 200 fewer recipients in fiscal year 2013.

NAP administrator Walter Macaranas disclosed that a total of 3,470 households were issued food stamp vouchers in fiscal year 2013—much lower than fiscal year 2012’s total of 3,662 households.

In fiscal year 2013, the NAP program served 3,207 households on Saipan, 114 on Rota, 146 on Tinian, and three on the Northern Islands, Macaranas said.

The decline in program recipients is primarily attributed to the recent 50-cent hike in the minimum wage of the CNMI, which resulted in some families going above the threshold for food stamp vouchers.

“This is a slight decrease of 192, and this is due to recent increases in the CNMI minimum wage, non-compliance with program requirements, and gainful employment,” Macaranas told Saipan Tribune.

The first quarter of the current fiscal year shows a similar drop in the number of food stamp recipients. Covering the period from October 2013 to January 2014, the number of households that availed of food stamps totaled 3,257, which is 213 fewer than fiscal 2013’s recipients of 3,470 households.

The first quarter report indicates that there are 3,001 clients on Saipan, 110 on Rota, 143 on Tinian, and three on the Northern Islands.

The Nutrition Assistance Program was established on July 2, 1982, through a block grant that is 100 percent federally funded. NAP is under the auspices of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.

For both fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the food stamp program received and will receive $12.148 million, Macaranas said.

Currently, he said, the program’s minimum benefit (household of one) is $133 while the highest benefit (household of 15) is $1,460.

For households receiving Supplemental Security Income, the maximum benefit is $20 per SSI household member, he said.

“The CNMI NAP Income and Benefit threshold has not increased since 1997, therefore NAP is proactively working with its grantor [U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service] to increase the income and benefit threshold to assist CNMI residents who may qualify,” said Macaranas.

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