Citing the continued depressed economy of the CNMI, the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. remains exempted from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
Kimo Rosario, Program and Housing Division manager for NMHC, informed the agency's board of directors during Thursday's meeting that they requested for another three-year exemption for the FSS.
HUD approved the request on Jan. 16.
The FSS program aims to free families from the need for public assistance by helping them identify and reach their educational and career goals by finding job training programs, child care agencies, transportation, and other support services.
Eligible to participate in the program are the heads of households that are tenants of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program or a Public Housing Resident. They should be at least 18 years old and are committed to entering a job training and/or educational program, currently in “good standing” with NMHC, and are willing to enter into an agreement called the FSS Contract of Participation.
“Basically, it's a program that helps families transition from dependency on housing assistance to become more self-sufficient,” Rosario said in an interview.
He explained that the three-year extension signifies that HUD, which provides funding that allows NMHC to administer its programs, will not require the local agency to have an FSS program in place.
Rosario noted, though, that the Commonwealth can get out of the exemption at any time once the conditions on the islands improve.
He said that NMHC is looking at implementing the program as soon as it can.
“The more families that we help transition to become more independent, the more families we can assist on the waiting list. They'll eventually decide to opt out of the voucher and move over to home ownership. There's a lot of them who really want to own their own homes,” he told Saipan Tribune.
Rosario disclosed to the board that he is presently working on an FSS action plan that is already 90 percent complete.
Deadline to submit the plan is on July 4, he said.
“That plan must be approved by our HUD Field Office,” said Rosario.
The division manager noted that an FSS action plan must be in place for NMHC to avail of existing grants to fund the FSS program's needs.
NMHC also needs to form partnerships with other service-related institutions such as the Northern Marianas College, the Public School System, Workforce Investment Agency, and Department of Labor for the implementation of the FSS program.