WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) thinks the CNMI is making good use of the $32.5 million he put into the Agricultural Act of 2014 to make more families eligible and raise food stamp benefits.
“The Department of Agriculture [says] we are now helping 2,736 households put food on the table,” Sablan said. “That is 341 more households than June,” when the CNMI began the new “E-NAP” system.
“The new money is also increasing benefits for families,” Sablan reported. “USDA tells me one-third of the benefits paid out in November—$338,768—came from the E-NAP funds I put in the Agricultural Act, or the ‘Farm Bill,’ as we usually say in Congress.”
The CNMI reported earlier this week that it was also developing an automated system to process applications and benefits and to allow people to apply online.
“About $1.75 million of my Farm Bill money is being used for the automated system,” Sablan said. “And then once that system is operational, another $1.5 million of the Farm Bill funds will pay for the Electronic Benefit System, EBT.
“EBT will end the paper food stamps and give recipients a debit card to swipe at check-out. That makes life easier for the retailers and the E-NAP families. It also cuts down on fraud.
“Most importantly, all of these changes—increasing eligibility, raising benefits, the EBT—make the Marianas system look more and more like the national program, SNAP.
“My ultimate goal is for the Marianas to be part of SNAP. And the more our program looks like the national program, the easier it will be to get to that goal.”
Sablan has also introduced legislation to put another $42.5 million into E-NAP, so the program can continue beyond 2020, or until the CNMI joins SNAP.
Sablan is working to include that legislation into the next Farm Bill, which could be enacted this year. He included the extra funding on his legislative priorities list for 2018. (PR)