Kilili revises bill to account for slow food stamp spending


WASHINGTON, DC—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has introduced a bill to give more food stamp funding to the Marianas, when funds already available are used up.

The bill is a revision of Sablan’s earlier legislation, H.R. 4216, that would provide an additional $8.5 million each year beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2023—a total of $42.5 million to feed Marianas families.

“The new bill only releases the annual $8.5 million, when the Commonwealth has less than that amount still unexpended,” Sablan said. “We had to take this approach because the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last month that the Marianas has $22.5 million available.

“Getting more funding with so much already on hand just would not fly with the House Agriculture Committee,” Sablan added.

Sablan is working with the Agriculture Committee to add his Marianas funding provision to a new “farm bill” that could be passed in this Congress. He added $32.5 million for the Marianas food stamp program in the last farm bill in 2014, but most of the money is still unspent.

In addition, Congress just appropriated another $12.148 million for the food stamp program in the Marianas in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus appropriation, Public Law 115-141.

“I have not received an updated account from the Agriculture Department yet, but the previously reported backlog of $22.5 million will obviously now be even larger.”

Making more families eligible for food assistance and raising the monthly benefits have been Sablan’s goals since his first year in Congress.

“It is hard knowing that people are hungry when millions of dollars are available to feed them.

“And it will be hard to keep funding at the current annual level of $20.648 million, if the CNMI continues its slow spending rate,” he said. (PR)

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