Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Food Stamps in the CNMI (part 2 of 2)


The previous post provided a brief history and current status of food stamps in the CNMI.

This post will cover your basic food stamp rights.


Basic Food Stamp Rights

If you are eligible for food stamps, you are entitled to receive them. This means you have several rights that you may exercise when dealing with the Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), the CNMI agency that implements the food stamps program. Some of these rights are explained below (click one of the questions):

1. What if the NAP tells me that I cannot apply for food stamps?

2. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get food stamps?

3. What are the financial eligibility rules?

4. The Grievance Procedure. What if I’m denied food stamps, or my food stamps are cut or stopped?

5. What if I forget to tell the NAP about changes to my household, income or property?

6. What if an NAP caseworker treats me unfairly?




1. What if the NAP tells me that I cannot apply for food stamps?

You have the right to submit an application for food stamps. NAP cannot stop you from applying. See #6 below (What if an NAP caseworker treats me unfairly?).     back to top


2. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to get food stamps?

Yes, but certain aliens may also qualify. Aliens who can qualify generally fall under U.S. immigration categories, such as those admitted for permanent residence (i.e., green card holders), refugees, and those granted asylum. If you cannot get food stamps, your family household members who are U.S. citizens or qualifying aliens may still be eligible to get them.     back to top


3. What are the financial eligibility rules?

Food stamps are a government benefit based on need. There are limits to an eligible household’s income and assets.

a. Income.

i. Can I get food stamps if I'm working?

Yes, you may be eligible to receive food stamp benefits if you earn below the income eligibility limit. Income limits vary depending on the number of persons in your household and their ages. Check with the NAP for the current limits.

ii. Can I get food stamps if I’m not working?

Yes, but you will most likely be required to participate in a work or training program. In the CNMI, this means registering with the Division of Employment Services (Dept. of Labor and Immigration). There are some instances where you do not have to comply with the work registration requirement, such as if you are younger than 18, 55 or older, are a full-time student, have a disability, or are at least six-months pregnant.

b. Assets.

Households may have $2,000 in readily accessible resources, like a bank account. Households may have $3,000 if at least one person is age 55 or older.
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4. THE GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE. What if I’m denied food stamps, or my food stamps are cut or stopped?

You have the right to a written notice if the NAP has decided to deny, terminate or lower the amount of your food stamps. The NAP notice must explain its decision. You have the right to challenge the decision by using the NAP’s grievance procedure.

a. For the grievance procedure, you have the right to request either an informal conference or fair hearing within 60 days of the food stamps denial, termination or decrease. Your request may be either oral or written. When you make your request, the NAP must provide you the grievance rules and procedure.

b. Notice of the conference or hearing is required and should explain what your grievance is about.

c. You may review your NAP file at a reasonable time before the hearing. The file must contain all the information that the NAP used in making its decision to deny, terminate or cut your food stamps.

d. A written order is required to issue within 5 business days of the hearing. The head of the NAP has 5 days after the hearing to review the order and make any changes. If this doesn’t happen, the order will become final. The order must be given to you within 5 days after it becomes final.

e. You have the right to continue to receive your food stamps during the grievance procedure.

f. The entire grievance procedure (from requesting a conference or hearing to receiving the NAP written decision) should take no longer than 60 days.

g. If you believe the final order is unfair, you can appeal it by filing a court action.
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5. What if I forget to tell the NAP about changes to my household, income or property?

You are responsible to report changes with the household's income, property, household members, or location of residence. If you don’t report these changes, the NAP may determine that you had been given too many food stamps in the past. If you owe a debt because of overissuance of food stamps, the NAP may try to collect payments from you, most likely by deducting a certain amount from your future monthly food stamp payments. If the NAP believes you were committing fraud by not reporting these changes, you may be disqualified from receiving food stamps for up to two years and be criminally liable.     back to top


6. What if an NAP caseworker treats me unfairly?

You have the right to ask for a hearing if your caseworker threatens you, does not follow the rules or tells you to do things that do not follow the rules, violates your privacy or does not treat you with dignity and respect. If this happens, you can file a grievance with the NAP to challenge the case worker’s improper or coercive behavior. back to top




2 comments:

Saipan Writer said...

Love the photos.

Great content, too.

The only thing I would add is--if you have questions, you can get legal advice (perhaps from MLSC!).

ara_barretto63 said...

WHAT IF THE PERSON APPLYING FOR FOOD STAMPS IS AN ELDERLY AND UNABLE TO WALK BECAUSE OF DISABILITY IS SHE STILL TO ATTEND THE MASS ORIENTATION JUST TO FIND OUT IF SHE IS ELIGIBLE FOR FOOD STAMPS?