Qualified Gita victims get Christmas gift from DHSS — food vouchers
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Thousands of local residents will get an early Christmas gift today when the Department of Human and Social Services (DHSS) starts issuing disaster relief food assistance for qualified victims of Tropical Storm Gita.
DHSS director Muavaefa’atasi John E. Suisala has announced that disaster food benefits under the Disaster Relief Food Assistance Program are ready for distribution starting today, Friday, December 21, 2018. (See distribution schedule at the end of this story.)
According to DHSS, funding for this program was announced by Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga on September 18, 2018 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FNS), awarded a grant of $500,000 to the American Samoa Government to provide supplemental disaster feeding benefits to the victims of Tropical Cyclone Gita.
Because of the limited amount of funding, the governor announced that benefits will be issued one-time only, in the form of food coupons, to very low-income families who were affected by the disaster, and who can demonstrate that their need for food assistance is greater.
The program is administered by the American Samoa Nutrition Assistance Program (ASNAP) Division of DHSS, using a Disaster Relief Food Assistance Plan approved by the USDA FNS.
DHSS reports that of the 7,359 applications from 1,937 households that were taken by DHSS at all seven application sites in Tutuila and Manu’a, 2,325 applications from 903 households were approved for disaster relief food assistance.
Unfortunately, 5,034 applications were denied for the following reasons:
- 3,963 applications were denied because they received FEMA assistance;
- 402 applications were denied because they are ASNAP or ASWIC recipients;
- 298 applications were denied due to excessive income; and
- 83 applications were denied due to incomplete applications.
In response to Samoa News inquiries yesterday, Muavaefa'atasi told Samoa News that all approved and denied applicants were notified by the ASNAP staff via telephone call.
"Heads of households or authorized representatives of approved households have all taken photos for, and received their ID cards, to pick up their benefits from the ASNAP and to use for verification when shopping at authorized stores for food items," he explained.
Based on the number of qualified individuals, the USDA FNS recently approved the issuance of a one-time disaster relief food assistance of $185 in food coupons per person.
For example, "A household of 4 will receive $740; a household of 6 will receive $1,110; a household of 10 will receive $1,850, etc.," the DHSS director explained, adding that benefits per person is $185, regardless of the number of approved family members.
The disaster food coupons are accepted at any authorized ASNAP retailer on Tutuila and Manu’a to purchase food items only. These stores are easily identifiable by a poster that reads: “We Accept Disaster Relief Food Assistance Coupons”. The disaster food coupons are valid for 60 days and must be spent by or before February 19, 2019.
Distribution - which runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. - is by alphabetical order, according to the dates listed above. For ease of distribution, only heads of households or authorized representatives who already received their “Disaster Relief Food Assistance Program” ID cards can pick up the coupons.
DHSS director Muavaefa’atasi extends his appreciation and gratitude to USDA FNS regional administrator Jesus Mendoza; regional disaster coordinator Maribelle Balbes; and the USDA FNS National and Western Region management and staff "for their continued support and assistance in providing food assistance for our vulnerable population."
He also extends his sincerest appreciation, fa’amalo and fa’afetai tele, to Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lieutenant Governor Lemanu Peleti Sialega Mauga "for their strong leadership and support of DHSS in implementing and delivering disaster food assistance benefits for our people."
THE MASS DISTRIBUTION SCHEDULE IS AS FOLLOWS:
- Friday, December 21, 2018 – Head of households or authorized representatives with last names beginning with letters, A, B, C, D, E, F
- Monday, December 24, 2018 – Head of households or authorized representatives with last names beginning with letters, G, H, I, J, K, L
- Wednesday, December 26, 2018 – Head of households or authorized representatives with last names beginning with letters, M, N, O, P, Q, R
- Thursday, December 27, 2018 – Head of households or authorized representatives with last names beginning with letters, S, V, W, X, Y, Z
- Friday, December 28, 2018 – Head of households or authorized representatives with last names beginning with letters, T & U
- Monday, December 31, 2018 to Monday, January 7, 2019 – open to recipients who did not pick up on the days listed above.