Admin to review food stamp analysis

Instead of conducting its own analysis, the Fitial administration will take a look at an analysis conducted by former Finance secretary Robert Schrack of RAS Consulting on the cost-benefit of including the CNMI in the national food stamp program, acting governor Eloy S. Inos said.

The analysis, commissioned by Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP), said that the inclusion in the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, would increase food stamp benefits to the CNMI by $12 million to $24 million.

“We’ll try to look at the cost-benefit analysis and if apparently it shows positive [benefits].then we should really sit down and pursue it,” Inos said in an interview at the Marianas Visitors Authority’s general membership meeting at Fiesta Resort & Spa in Garapan yesterday.

Among the things he wants to know are the eligibility requirements, the number of people who may be kicked out of the program because of ineligibility, and the amount of benefits.

The administration, through the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, had been opposed the CNMI’s inclusion in the national food stamp program.

But Inos said this could be mainly as a result of a lack of a cost-benefit analysis. He said now that a study has been conducted, the administration will have to look at it.

Under the SNAP, the CNMI is required to share one-half of the administrative costs, which are currently entirely paid with federal grant funds.

The current administrative cost is $1.3 million. This means if the CNMI is included in SNAP, it has to shoulder $650,000 of the administrative costs.

But RAS Consulting said the $650,000 would be more than covered by additional tax revenue of $2.148 million to $5.04 million generated by the increased food sales and other economic activity resulting from inclusion in SNAP.

Inos said if this is the case, then the more that the administration would have to look at the study.

RAS Consulting also said that the inclusion in SNAP would also result in a total economic impact of $21.48 million to $42.96 million annually using the SNAP multiplier.

The current food stamp assistance block grant that the CNMI negotiates with the U.S. Department of Agriculture each year provides less than half the average benefit that those in need receive in Guam, which is included in SNAP.

To illustrate: An average monthly food stamp benefit for a family of four in the CNMI is $302 a month. In Guam, a family of four receives an average of $985 a month in food stamps. Nationally, the average monthly benefit for a family of four is $668.

Haidee V. Eugenio | Reporter
Haidee V. Eugenio has covered politics, immigration, business and a host of other news beats as a longtime journalist in the CNMI, and is a recipient of professional awards and commendations, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental achievement award for her environmental reporting. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

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