Kilili to Fitial: Admin costs lower with nat’l food stamp

Delegate ends 5-day food challenge
Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) told Gov. Benigno R. Fitial again yesterday that the CNMI’s inclusion in the national food stamp program would result in an additional $12 million to $24 million in food aid, this time also saying that administrative costs for running the current program might be higher than is necessary. But the Fitial administration is still unconvinced.

Sablan, who ended yesterday his five-day challenge of spending $4.87 a day on food, said the CNMI’s cost of administering its current food stamp program is $120 per participant per year.

He said this is much higher than what Guam spends, which is some $80 per participant per year. Guam is part of the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Another way of making this comparison, Sablan told Fitial, is to note that Guam administers its annual $96.7 million SNAP funds for $2.939 million or 3 cents in administrative costs for every $1 managed.

The CNMI, he said, spent $1.2 million to administer $12.148 million last year, or 10 cents for every $1 managed, “three times the administrative cost ratio for Guam.”

“This suggests that the Commonwealth government might be able to operate SNAP at a lower cost than it presently operates its food stamp program,” Sablan said in the two-page letter sent to Fitial yesterday.

Press secretary Angel Demapan said the governor has yet to review Sablan’s letter but said the administration had earlier made known its concerns on certain provisions of SNAP.

“Moving forward, a thorough dialogue between local and federal counterparts would be the best avenue to address the Commonwealth’s concerns in an effort to reach an agreement that will be mutually favorable,” he told Saipan Tribune.

He also would like to clarify first what is written in Sablan’s letter because currently, under the Nutrition Assistance Program, the administrative cost is fully funded by the federal government.

“Furthermore, comparison to administering the program in Guam should not be the sole basis of projecting costs because it has to be considered that the NMI would have to operate the program on all three municipalities,” he added.

Food challenge, book donation

Sablan, in an interview at his office in Susupe during lunch hour yesterday, said it’s tough to survive on $4.87 a day, the maximum food stamp benefit for an individual in the CNMI.

“People do this every day. They live on this amount. It’s tough,” he told Saipan Tribune. He said he will continue to push for more food stamp for the people of the Commonwealth.

Sablan’s five-day challenge to live on $4.87 a day on food seeks to convince the Fitial administration to work with him to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include the CNMI in the national food stamp program, which he said will result in more food aid.

Demapan said the Fitial administration’s ongoing review of the SNAP versus the NAP programs “is premised on facts and real time financial figures, not petty campaign tactics.”

Sablan said the food challenge is not a campaign tactic but a way to experience how hard it is to live on limited food stamp benefits under the current program.

For the last day of his challenge, Sablan had toast and eggs for breakfast for 57 cents, chicken estufao with local long beans for lunch for $1.47, Japanese yakisoba with cucumber tomato salad for dinner for $1.38, drinking water for 50 cents, and four cups of coffee for 60 cents.

For lunch, he was joined by his wife Andrea, who cooked his meals for the five-day challenge.

Sablan said he consulted a registered dietitian to also make sure that the meals would be nutritious. He said he was also able to limit his coffee intake to four cups a day, during the challenge.

After lunch, Sablan went to Northern Marianas College to donate boxes of new, surplus books from the U.S. Library of Congress.

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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