Self-screening for food stamp aid now available

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Posted on Feb 13 2020

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Government employees who may be rendered eligible for food stamp assistance due to cuts in their work hours can now check their eligibility using an online self-screening assessment tool.

The local food stamp program, Nutrition Assistance Program, is now offering digital and paper copies of self-screening assessment for household heads who are or aren’t U.S. citizens so they can make a preliminary determination if they are eligible for assistance.

Though the NAP has not changed its income eligibility standards, they are hoping that, with this self-screening assessment, more people who have been or will be made eligible by the government’s austerity regime will consider looking into NAP assistance while going through a hard time.

NAP administrator Walter Macaranas recommends that government employees submit their application or come in for assistance in the latter part of March since austerity measures will be implemented that month.

“We want to offer this service so that they [applicants] won’t come in here and put in so much effort into doing all these requirements, only to find out that they’re not eligible,” said Macaranas.

For eligible and ineligible adult head of the household, the citizenship criterion requires the adult head of the household to meet the following: U.S citizen, U.S national, lawfully admitted permanent residents (green card holders), an alien granted asylum under the immigration and Nationality Act, a refugee who is admitted to the United States, and certain aliens whose deportation is being withheld.

The types of income for eligible adult heads of household are separated into two brackets: earned income and unearned income. Earned income are wages and salaries, self-employment, and training allowance from vocational and rehabilitative programs. Unearned incomes are public assistance payments, annuities, pensions, retirement, veterans or disability benefits, income of eligible or disqualified household members, survivor’s or social security benefits, support or alimony payments, child support payments, dividends, interest or royalties, gambling winnings, and lottery winnings.

To check for your gross monthly income obtained from wages and salaries that are based on a biweekly pay, you should collect your three most recent check stubs and find the average. For example, if your recent check stubs are $580, $623.50, and $667, you should add it all together and divide the total amount by three. The total would come out as $1,870.50. Divide it by three and it will result in $623.50. For your monthly gross pay, you multiply $623.50 by your biweekly computation rate, which would be 2.15. Your monthly gross pay multiplied by 2.15 would come out as $1,340.53.

Once you get your monthly gross pay, you can compare your monthly gross pay with the gross limit for your household size. If the gross monthly income is equal to or less than the gross limit, then you would meet the income criteria.

How is a benefit level determined for households with earned incomes? For example, if your household is the size of four on Saipan, and your monthly gross pay is $1,340.53, you would take away 10% of your earned income, which would equal to $1,206 and then multiply 30% of your food budget, which is how much you would essentially spend on food for your family, and your overall total will be $362. Next, you would check the household size of a family of four for Saipan. That would be $944. Now you subtract your food budget of $362 from $944, and you will get $582. The $582 will be your monthly income for food stamps.

If you are an ineligible adult head of the household, you would not need to deducted 10% of your earned income. For example, if your monthly gross pay is $670.27, you would take 30% of your food budget which would be $201. If you are a household of four but the head of the household and the spouse aren’t U.S citizens but the other two in the household are U.S citizens, your household would be considered as a household of two. Since the household of two people is $519, then you would take away $201 from $519 and it would be $318. The $318 would be your monthly income for food stamps.

Note that the income eligibility standards, type of resources and resource limits, and maximum monthly benefit allotment have not changed since last Jan. 2020.

For more information, check the NAP Facebook page or call (670)237-2800.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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