House adds Marianas to Pandemic EBT program
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) asked Gov. Ralph Torres yesterday not to cut food aid for Marianas families on Oct. 1.
In a letter to the delegate on Aug. 26, the governor threatened to cut aid to some of the 5,169 families now enrolled in the Commonwealth’s Nutrition Assistance Program, unless Congress appropriates $11.5 million.
In a response to the governor, Sablan said that cutting aid in the middle of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus would be a terrible hardship on these families. He urged Torres to be compassionate, at least, to March next year, when the $23 million the Commonwealth currently has available might run out.
Sablan also updated the governor on Wednesday’s action by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to include the Marianas in a special Pandemic EBT program, providing food assistance to families with school children. The change is part of the must-pass continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Dec. 11.
The Pandemic EBT program will require a plan of action from the governor but is expected to provide from $12 to $16 million to the Commonwealth.
The program was set up in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and did not include American Samoa, Puerto Rico, or the Marianas, because those areas do not have EBT, electronic benefits transfer, systems. Instead, the Families First Act in May and the CARES Act in March provided the Commonwealth with $1.86 million for food assistance—money, Sablan noted, that the governor had not accounted for when deciding to cut benefits on Oct. 1. (PR)