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Rise in applicants causes 35% cut to benefits

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 19, 2011) - With its economy still in slowdown, people in the Northern Marianas are lining up to get food stamp assistance from the US Government's welfare program for nutrition.

The head of the Nutrition Assistance Program, Eleanor Cruzwhich, says the benefits of recipients have been cut by 35 percent because of the rising number of applicants they are serving.

She says the new policy will stay in effect until further notice, with almost 10,000 residents relying on food stamps.

The US Government provides US$12 million every year to the Northern Marianas for food stamps.

Those relying on the program say the situation is worrying because there is no sign that the islands' tourism-based economy will get better anytime soon.

The Northern Marianas Government has reduced the working hours of its employees by 20 percent this year in an effort to save money.

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