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CNMI DELEGATE ‘SURVIVING’ ON $4.87 FOOD STAMP DIET Sablan pushing government to embrace federal program

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 9, 2012)—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said it is "tough" to live on $4.87 a day as he survived the first of a five-day food stamp challenge yesterday.

Sablan's challenge to live on $4.87 a day seeks to convince the CNMI government to work with him to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include the CNMI in the national food stamp program which would bring $12 million to $24 million in additional money to the local economy.

On his first day on the challenge, Sablan's breakfast consisted of apple cinnamon oatmeal for 89 cents, while lunch was Spam and cabbage with rice for $1.14

Dinner was Japanese Yakisoba with cucumber and tomato salad for $1.93. Another 50 cents was for drinking water, and 45 cents for three cups of coffee.

While the total spent on the first day was $4.91, or a few cents over the budgeted $4.87, Sablan said the $4.87 average will be spread over five days so some days could see higher or lower than that amount.

$4.87 is the maximum food stamp benefit for an individual in the CNMI.

"It's tough to live on an average of $4.87 a day. While government officials would say they know how hard it is, they wouldn't really know until they try it. They need to feel how people feel," Sablan told Saipan Tribune.

Sablan has long been asking the Fitial administration to support his proposal to have the CNMI included in the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, but to no avail.

The Fitial administration remains opposed to the idea, saying the administrative costs are high.

Sablan raised the question why the Fitial administration could not find $37, for example, for the annual administrative cost of each food stamp recipient in the CNMI should it choose to become part of SNAP, which will bring in at least $12 million in additional money to the CNMI.

He said the $37 is the administrative cost spent in Guam, where food stamp benefit is more than double than in the CNMI.

Sablan said right now the food stamp program costs about $1.2 million to administer. Under the national program, the CNMI would have to cover half or some $600,000 the administrative costs, which Sablan said the new tax revenues would more than take care of.

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