May 26, 1998
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. ---- FALEOMAVAEGA ANNOUNCES USDA FOOD
STAMP WAIVER ALLOWS BENEFITS TO BE
Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that there is no longer any obstacle on the federal side to the restoration of food stamp benefits for the approximately 1,200 residents of the territory whose benefits were cut under welfare reform. Clearly pleased with the news, Faleomavaega said, "This has been a complicated process and I am very happy that we were successful in securing a waiver to allow American Samoa's food stamp program to restore these benefits."
The Congressman went on to explain that USDA officials were waiting for information from ASG in order to amend the Memorandum of Understanding governing the food stamp program in American Samoa. "I have been informed that USDA is ready to authorize the release of federal funds to restore food stamp benefits to these individuals once an amended MOU is in place," said Faleomavaega.
The Congressman went on to express his appreciation to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman for his support. "From the beginning, Secretary Glickman has been a strong supporter of the food stamp program in American Samoa," said Faleomavaega. "When our peoples' benefits were cut because of welfare reform, I asked Secretary Glickman for his assistance in finding a way to restore them."
Faleomavaega went on to explain that the Secretary then issued a notice of his intent to grant a waiver to American Samoa's food stamp program. "The notice was issued in early March, and I have worked closely with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle in the House and the Senate to ensure that there would not be any opposition to the waiver."
No opposing comments were filed during the mandatory 60 day comment period, and the USDA indicated, in a May 15, 1998 letter to Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia that food stamp benefits could be restored pending the submission of revised eligibility guidelines by the local ASNAP officials. "There have been many hands involved in this process, and I would dearly like to thank them for their assistance to the people of American Samoa," said the Congressman.
Faleomavaega continued, "Not only did we receive support from Congress, our efforts were reinforced by the support of Governor Tauese and his administration and the hard work put in by Ms. Jan Lipsen, who lobbied on behalf of the American Samoa Government." The Congressman concluded, "We would not have achieved this result without the combined efforts of all these people. I am very happy that this team effort has succeeded."
Details of the benefit restoration are presently being worked out between the Region IX office of USDA and the local ASNAP program officials.