WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has reintroduced his legislation adding the Marianas to the national food assistance program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. His Ayuda Act was first put forward in 2011 but did not move forward. Sablan was able to get a study of the feasibility of adding the Marianas to SNAP and an extra $30.5 million for the existing food stamp program, but his ultimate goal was, and remains, having the same safety net protections for people in the Marianas as other Americans, including in Guam.
“The only way to be successful in Congress,” Sablan said, “is to be persistent. You cannot give up.
“Timing is always important, too,” he added. “In this Congress I was able to get seated on the Agriculture Committee, which will have jurisdiction over my bill. That will make a difference. And the new chairman of the Committee, David Scott, was a cosponsor of the Ayuda Act back in 2011, so I think I can count on his support.
“We have a Democratic House and Senate now. And we have a vice president, who introduced the Closing the Meal Gap Act in the Senate last year that, among other policies, added the Marianas to SNAP.
“I also think more people understand that the current situation, where the Marianas gets a block grant, a fixed amount, for food assistance every year just does not work. ‘Why does Sablan have to keep coming back and adding money for food aid,’ people say, ‘$25 million in 2019, $14 million last month?’
“Well, the answer is that block grants do not respond to disasters or economic changes. The wisdom of SNAP in the states and in Guam, which is in the program, is when the need increases the money is available automatically. And when the need decreases the federal spending goes down.
“That makes sense for the people who need help. It makes sense from a fiscal point of view for the federal government.”
Still hoping governor will act
Sablan said he remains hopeful that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres will use the $14 million Sablan included for Marianas food aid in last month’s relief act, Public Law 116-260, to restore benefits to those the governor removed from eligibility in October and return benefits to their previous level.
As soon as the relief act passed in Congress on Dec. 21, Sablan emailed Torres with the good news. “…you requested $11,527,811,” the delegate wrote, “which, together with the annual block grant of $12.148 million, would be enough, you said, for all of [fiscal year 2021].
“Now that I have provided more than you asked for, I respectfully request that you immediately reinstate all the households that you took off NAP on Oct. 1 and restore the benefits that you cut at that time. For the over 4,000 Marianas households that depend on NAP, your action would be particularly welcome in this holiday season.”
To date Torres has not replied to Sablan on how the $14 million would be used. (PR)