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Governor asks Kilili to help NMI get additional NAP funds

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres is asking U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan to help the CNMI obtain additional funding for its Nutrition Assistance Program.

He provided Kilili with additional information on the required funding to maintain the current levels of income eligibility standards and maximum benefit allotments.

The governor said  funding for the Enhancement of the NAP, or ENAP, will be expiring on Sept. 30, 2021. As part of the ENAP’s approved plan, the CNMI will revert to the income and benefit levels authorized in fiscal year 2016.

Torres said the current funding balance of ENAP is $2,997,829. In addition, $8,091,584 of the FY 2020 block grant is estimated to be carried over to supplement the anticipated FY 2021 grant of $12,148,000. This reflects the sum of $23,237,413 that will be available for expenditure by NAP in FY 2021.

Of this amount, the governor said the CNMI has proposed $18,019,089 for program benefits and $5,218,314 for administrative costs, which include $1,688,022 reserved for the Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, system.

The governor said the devastating impact of Covid-19 has significantly burdened the CNMI economy, affecting all businesses, the workforce, and the CNMI government.

“Dwindled revenue collections have severely affected the government’s ability to fully operate and retain a pertinent workforce. Hundreds of workers from both the private and public sectors have been affected in some way, either through reduction in work hours, furloughs, or layoffs, driving the need for additional public assistance,” he said.

As a result, the NAP is “presented with an unprecedented increase in participation from households whose incomes were abruptly impeded. Essentially, there has been a significant increase in the number of households who lack the means of adequate income today and are heavily reliant on NAP benefits,” the governor said.

The NAP participation rate in June 2020 reached 5,169 households compared to 3,540 households in March 2020, an increase of approximately 46% or 1,627 additional households, he added.

“We understand that it will take some time for the economy to recover, and so we expect that the reliance on public aid may be longer than initially expected in the early days of this pandemic,” the governor told Kilili.

He said considering the current situation, “it is prudent to utilize these periods of participation as the basis for determining estimates for the upcoming fiscal year.”

Using the April 2020 to June 2020 data, approximately $7,386,725 in program benefits were issued or an average of $2,462,242 of benefits per month for 4,645 average households, Torres said.

When projecting the numbers for 12 months, the estimate would be $29,546,900 for the year, he added. “The amount that has been proposed for program benefits is $18,019,089. As a result, the amount determined as the shortfall would be $11,527,811. This amount of funding would be necessary in order to maintain the approved income eligibility standards and maximum benefit allotments that are currently in place.”

The governor said the NAP has submitted its proposal to implement the program within the anticipated funding limit for FY 2021 of $23,237,413.

“However, the current proposal is to reduce the income standards and maximum benefit allotments by 25% beginning Oct. 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021 and eventual reduction of such levels to the pre-ENAP levels from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021,” Torres said.

“I am hopeful that this necessary reduction in NAP benefits and income-eligibility can be averted with congressional appropriation of additional funding. I am further hopeful that you will share this concern with me to ensure that families have adequate food on their tables.”

 

 

 

 

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