Monday, March 12, 2012

Guam Food Stamps

If I had more time I would love to write and research more the meaning of Food Stamps on Guam. Like most things in life, people tend to view them negatively through the people who use them. They complain about them towards the start of each month, when they crowd the aisles and choke the lines of grocery stores. They are viewed as things which suck away life, and make things weak. But are they really? We see so many forms of Federal aid as things that make us lazy, and show how sad and dependent we are, but why do we rarely reverse that ideological equation? Since food stamps are so bad, why do we not see more people condemn the US for weakening the people of Guam and taking away their ability to work or sustain themselves? 

One of the reasons why doing research on food stamps here could be very productive is because of the way Guam is not just a state, but rather a territory, a colony as well. So what is a simple ideological argument in the states, against racialized groups or poor groups, becomes drenched in colonial common sense in Guam. You won't hear many people in the states argue that food stamps are a reason why their state sucks and can't take care of itself, but you will hear that daily in Guam.

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Food stamps twice the US average

3:00 PM, Mar. 5, 2012  |  

BY THE NUMBERS

$694: The average amount of food stamp benefits Guam households received per month -- compared to $289 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2010.
$218: The average monthly benefit per person on Guam -- compared to about $133 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2010.
$685: The average amount of food stamp benefits Guam households received per month -- compared to $275 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2009.
$208: The average monthly benefit per person on Guam -- compared to about $125 average nationwide -- in fiscal 2009.
2010 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Fiscal 2009 State Activity report
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, helps working families buy food they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford because of their limited budgets.

The program is a lifesaver for Josette Guzman, a mother of four who was laid off last December from the Department of Agriculture as a commodities inspector.

"It helps me feed my kids," the Santa Rita resident said. Guzman has been looking for a job ever since she was let go. "It's been hard. I applied (at) so many places."

Guzman's family is one of thousands of households on Guam that receive the monthly assistance.
In fiscal 2010, the average amount of food stamp benefits Guam households received was more than double the average amount that U.S. participating households received.

The average on Guam was about $694 a month, compared to the national average of $289, according to the fiscal 2010 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program state activity report -- the most recent state report available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service website.

The average monthly benefit per person on Guam in fiscal 2010 was about $218. The U.S. average was about $133, the report states.

The numbers were similar in fiscal 2009, when the average monthly benefit per participating household on Guam was about $685, according to the fiscal 2009 state activity report. The average monthly benefit for a U.S. participating household was about $275 in fiscal 2009.

In 2009, the average monthly benefit per person on Guam was about $208 compared to the U.S. average of about $125, the report states.

Reasons

There are two possible reasons for the benefits being greater on Guam compared to the U.S. average, according to James Gillan, director of the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
"It is due to family size and the lower income status of our clients," Gillan said in an email.

He said the program is available to families and individuals at more generous levels than other types of welfare programs. People with incomes that wouldn't qualify for the Medically Indigent Program or Medicaid, for instance, can qualify for food stamps, Gillan said.

"People with somewhat higher income levels will still qualify, but for less than lower income individuals," he said. "It simply means that our food stamp population is ... poorer and qualifies for more dollar value assistance."

Gillan also said the program isn't available to Freely Associated States citizens living here, but children born on Guam to FAS citizens do qualify. Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau can move to Guam under their countries' compact of free association agreements with the United States.

Maintain program

Joo "Jay" Ko, owner of New Asan Beach Mart, said the SNAP program is good for the economy.
"Thanks to food stamps, the beginning to the middle of the month business picks up, and toward the end of the month it slows down," Ko said. He said he notices customers fill up their baskets in the beginning of the month, but toward the end are buying items one at a time.

Ko, a resident of Harmon who bought the store from the former owners five years ago, said he hopes with the federal government's deficit, it doesn't touch food stamps.

"The wages here on Guam are not as high as back in the states. ... (The) majority of the people (here) are living paycheck-to-paycheck," Ko said.

One of those families is the Nakayamas. After her husband had a sports injury, Annet Nakayama, 32, of Asan, has had to take on the responsibility of primary breadwinner.

Nakayama works as a cashier at New Asan Beach Mart. The mother of three young children -- a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old and a 4-month-old -- relies on the program to help pay for groceries and other items, such as infant formula, which are necessary but "so expensive."

Nakayama's husband had worked at a restaurant and another supermarket until he was injured.
"
Right now, I'm the one that works, so I can pay rent and power," Nakayama said.

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