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Ayuda Act of 2021

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 21, 2021
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SABLAN. Madam Speaker, today, I introduce the Assuring You Uniform Dietary Assistance (AYUDA) Act, making the Northern Mariana Islands part of the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). My bill ensures individuals and families in our islands who rely on this help to put food on the table are treated equitably and receive similar levels of assistance available in other parts of our nation.

Inclusion in SNAP for the people I represent remains a priority goal for me. I first introduced the AYUDA Act in the 112th Congress. And in the years since, a pilot program has demonstrated the feasibility of including the Northern Marianas in SNAP. Taking this action will avoid future disruption in vital food aid. And it will relieve the administrative burden on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to manage a one-off, block grant for our islands when right next door in the U.S. territory of Guam SNAP works perfectly well.

The current block grant approach to food aid for the Northern Marianas continues to reduce assistance to those in need compared to other Americans. Because the arbitrarily capped block grant funds do not automatically respond to changing economic conditions, families in need face the prospect that their benefits will be reduced or cut off completely. In fact, just last October, the Commonwealth government stated it had no choice but to remove households from eligibility for the new fiscal year due to insufficient funds. Moreover, benefits were substantially cut by 25 percent on October 1, 2020.

The time has now come to right the disparity that keeps the majority- minority community I represent excluded from this critical safety net program that has kept millions of Americans from going hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a time when the Marianas economy continues to be shut due to the coronavirus crisis, I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that those in need are not treated differently simply because of where they live in America.

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