$1.4M per month in new food stamp money coming for American Samoans starting next month
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Department of Human and Social Services is working with its authorized vendors for the food stamp program, as well as wholesalers, to ensure that store shelves remain well stocked when DHSS starts issuing vouchers for the federally-funded Additional Supplemental Disaster Recovery Assistance (ASDRFA) Program next month.
Under this temporary assistance, DHSS director Muavaefa’atasi John Suisala said an additional $1.4 million a month goes into the local economy through the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program (ASNAP), also known as the Food Stamp Program.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga announced two months ago that the US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS) had approved American Samoa’s implementation plan to provide additional supplemental disaster recovery food assistance for American Samoa’s low-income residents who continue to recover from the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Gita and who meet financial and non- financial eligibility criteria established for this assistance.
Federal law provides $18 million to American Samoa for disaster nutrition assistance - through the ASDRFA Program — and this funding remains available for obligation by the territory until Sept. 30, 2020.
During a DHSS presentation on the ASDRFA at last week’s cabinet meeting, Muavaefa’atasi said they are working with authorized food stamp vendors to ensure sufficient supplies are on shelves when the first round of benefit checks are released next month.
He pointed out that it was in September this year that food stamp recipients were given a one-time bonus payment of $250. The bonus came from unused funds for FY 2019. And during that month, when the food stamp bonus vouchers were distributed, stores— or food stamp authorized vendors — faced a shortage of items, he said, adding that the total amount of the one- time bonus was more than $500,000.
To ensure that this doesn’t happen during the distribution of ASDRFA food vouchers, Muavaefa’atasi said DHSS met with ASNAP authorized vendors, as well as wholesalers, to look at ways to ensure there is sufficient supply on the shelves when December comes around.
He said the usual ASNAP voucher distribution totals about $1 million a month for all eligible recipients, but with the new $18 million, the monthly distribution will provide an additional $1.4 million. That means, more than $2 million in “purchase power” a month, he added.
DHSS started accepting applications for the ASDRFA on Oct. 30th and the deadline is Nov. 15th. DHSS has five sites across the territory where applications are accepted from 8a.m to 3p.m.
On Tutuila island: Fai’ivae Guest House in Leone; CCCAS Church Hall Faleniu; Samoan Fale at the Suigaula o le Atuvasa in Utulei; Dept. of Youth & Women’s Affairs at Pago Pago; and Uti’s Guest House in Leloaloa.
For Manu’a, applications are accepted at the DHSS office in Fitiuta and Ofu.
More information, including an application regarding the ASDRFA program, can be found on the DHSS website <www.dhss.as> or on their Facebook page.