DCAA outlines changes to programs and new ones

Posted on Aug 14 2019

Rotary Club of Saipan president Marcia Ayuyu listens intently as Department of Community and Cultural Affairs secretary Robert Hunter presented updates from his office at the Rotary Club of Saipan meeting held yesterday at Giovanni’s Restaurant of Hyatt Regency Saipan in Garapan. (Bea Cabrera)

The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has lined up a series of changes that will affect in-depth personal care, promote sports and a healthy lifestyle, higher efficiencies in providing services to the public, and possible modern use of historical sites.

DCCA Secretary Robert Hunter outlined these upcoming changes within his department as the guest speaker of the Rotary Club of Saipan during the group’s weekly meeting yesterday at the Giovanni’s at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.

The first of several DCCA rollouts is the CNMI Respite Services Program, a homebound care service that will start in November this year.

“DCCA is now responsible for [this] program. …It’s a new program that provides temporary breaks through volunteers to family members who take care 24/7 of a senior in the family that has special needs or who is bedridden.

“…If you are a family member who takes care of somebody, we can go in and relieve you on a scheduled basis and provide quality assistance and activities for the person being cared for,” he said.

DCCA is now training volunteers to go to homes as respite care takers. “Statistics show that this kind of care provides better outcome for the people being taken cared of,” Hunter said. “This program also grants us some monitoring of these persons who are bedridden who don’t leave the house and look at their environment and direct them to other services.”

Second is the Electronics Benefits System of the Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. Hunter said this plan has been two years in the making and they got approval from the federal level after testing the system last year.

The Electronic Benefits System will provide food stamp clients with an electronic benefits transfer card that is very similar to a credit card.

Right now, when the local Nutrition Assistance Program hands out food benefits every month, “we hand out stacks of printed coupons,” Hunter said. “If I were to receive these, I have to sign this coupon, the retailer has to receive an identification card and review it, which overall is a big difficult process…

“With the EBT system, all the benefits are uploaded in the card. …People don’t have to come in as we are doing everything electronically,” he added.

DCCA is looking at January 2020 to transition to the EBT system.

Third is the DCCA Sports and Recreation Program, which Hunter calls a start-up program for DCAA once again. About seven or eight years ago, there was a law that transferred some of these activities to the Northern Marianas Sports Association, including the physical gym.

“DCCA still maintained the programs and staff on Rota and we still handle most of the community sports activities on Saipan, which includes scheduling of baseball games, fixing the courts on occasion, and managing ‘memorandum of agreements’ for properties we have to facilitate, like the soccer training field in Koblerville and northern sports facility going up in Tanapag,” he said.

“We still have our hands in the sports world outside of the gym but we are getting a little more of that this year by bringing that into a full DCAA program,” he added.

Fourth, under DCCA is the Historic Preservation Office, which deals with all things historic in the Northern Mariana Islands, including giving out permits for the use of these sites.

“HPO is on the cusp of receiving about a $5-million grant and this will cover the renovations of their office and the development of historic sites such as cleaning, maintaining, and putting up signs,” Hunter said.

“One of the things that we are excited about is the renovation of the lighthouse. We have yet to meet with the Department of Public Lands this week, hoping that when they learn that we have these funds coming, they will turn that property over to us. We want to turn that into a gallery…we will know about that grant in December,” Hunter added.

Bea Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.
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