Sablan to Torres: Issue stimulus directly, not via debit cards

Rep. Tina Sablan said the next round of direct stimulus payments should be paid in cash, and not in government-issued and -restricted debit cards.

CNMI House of Representatives members have been advocating for Gov. Ralph Torres to use American Rescue Plan Act money to pay qualified citizens a second direct aid stimulus payment.

The first stimulus was issued via a debit account that could only be used via a debit card. Residents could only use the cards at certain stores and vendors in the Commonwealth. Members of the House have since advocated for a new stimulus that is not so restrictive.

“[F]or most people, they can’t be used to pay rent,” Ms. Sablan said of the debit card version of a stimulus payment. “They can’t be used to buy vegetables from most farmers. They can’t be used to buy fish from most fishermen. Lots of small businesses can’t accept them. They can’t be used to help loved ones on medical referral, or children attending school off island. Then there’s the overhead costs of administration and the vendor fees, and the highly inconvenient holds that are placed on the funds every time the cards are used for certain types of services.”

Mr. Torres this week, answering questions from reporters, said he indeed plans to issue a second stimulus, but that it will be done via restricted debit cards again.

“What Governor Torres is really saying is that he doesn’t think people can be trusted with money,” Ms. Sablan said. “Irony aside, it’s insulting. I urge the administration to give people the freedom and flexibility to decide how best to apply their local stimulus funds, as they were able to do with the first rounds of federal economic impact payments. Let people decide which of their pressing household needs to address first. And for goodness’ sake, have some empathy and respect for the thousands of struggling citizens who really need this help right now, and make that help available to them as quickly as possible.”


  • Thank you, Tina for continuing to advocate for the people! I look forward to voting for you in the upcoming election. This is just one example of how Torres is so out of touch with what the people need. With the last fiasco with the debit cards not working or the extra fees that recipients had to pay for using the card, the smart thing to do is nix the cards entirely. Which Torres crony is getting a kick back for using these cards? It HAS to be the reason he’s pushing so hard for debit cards. He must owe someone for something shady and is using the ARPA to pay for it.

  • Chris L Middleton

      04/11/2022 at 5:30 PM

    Reason for the Stimulus cards is becasue there are “kickback” incentives for Both Ralphe Torres and David Atalig the Director of finance as well as their wives… this is the agreement with this Debit card Vendor from California when David Atalig and his wife arrrived in the CNMI last year 2 weeks before the 1st round of Stimulus benefits were added to these “Nonsense Debit cards” when it much cheaper to print ink onto paper and drop these checks in the mail boxes of CNMI Citizens,,, When its a crazy idea, there is ALWAYS Nafarious and Deceitful resons and motives behind the reason… The reason being: to allign the pockets of these two Gangster Politicians before Ralphie Torres is Impeached later this year 2022..!!!

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