By Nancy I. Maanao
(Tumon, Guam) The Guam Legislature goes into session Tuesday with a growing issue palpable to the everyday Guamanian: more residents and their children are going hungry because they can't afford the cost of food and they do not yet have public assistance. There currently is no local program to provide food for starving residents.
This fact isn't based simply on numbers on a data sheet, or media reports. For the past several days, Kandit News Group has joined other businesses and non profit groups in facilitating the donation and delivery of food to families.
People are starving. Children are asking their parents for food as they look at empty fridges and cupboards. Young mothers, who had jobs prior to the public health emergency, are rationing their babies's diapers, soiled and hanging from them.
We know, because we've been seeing this for ourselves as we deliver food, diapers, and hygiene products donated by a growing number of donors who want to remain anonymous.
According to the Joint Information Center, the governor is encouraging residents who have lost income through this crisis to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or what's commonly referred to as food stamps. While the food assistance may help, residents have applied and have been waiting for their benefits. SNAP, however, does not cover non-food necessities, like diapers and hygiene products.
There is no local program to help these growing numbers of residents in need.
Congress anticipated this problem in its passage of the CARES Act, through which Guam received more than $140 million about two weeks ago. One of the first approved and encouraged uses of the funds is for local governments to provide food for residents.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has yet to inform even the Guam Legislature how she intends to use that funding, and no senator has proposed a food and commodities program to help the people of Guam.
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes did write to Ms. Leon Guerrero asking her to avail of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that allows the government to purchase farm stocks from local and national farmers and distribute those stocks to residents. Ms. Leon Guerrero never responded to the speaker's request.
Any senator may draft legislation to this effect and introduce the measure and move to have it debated and voted upon, when the Legislature goes into session tomorrow.
Kandit will be covering the session live, beginning at 10 a.m.