Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig said Friday that they have allocated $25 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for the second Local Economic Impact Payment that will give $500 to each eligible filer and dependent in the CNMI.
In response to a question during a radio press briefing, Atalig said they have allocated $25 million but are expecting to distribute over $17 million in all for this second stimulus program.
He encouraged those who have not filed their income tax return and for those who are zero income filers to get their tax returns submitted.
As to the concern by some people and lawmakers that issuing debit cards for the second stimulus will not help small vendors who do not accept cards, Atalig said just like in the first local stimulus, the reason for the use of cards is it is administered by the local government and they want to help local vendors.
He said they encourage small businesses to avail of the stimulus by obtaining access to accepting the cards.
“We want to keep the funds here. We want to stimulate the Commonwealth’s economy. We do not want to stimulate [the economy of] other jurisdictions as much as we can,” Atalig said.
Atalig said their focus is to help the local economy and, in turn, it helps the government receive business gross receipts, and then helps keep the money flowing within the CNMI’s borders.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed last week an agreement with Finance’s Division of Revenue and Taxation regarding implementation plan for the second local stimulus.
Atalig said they will be rolling out this stimulus program hopefully in the next two to three weeks—or by mid-June.
“And so I’m very appreciative of the staff at the Division of Revenue and Taxation for their hard work to make this happen,” he said.
Atlig said they are excited about helping the community with this stimulus rollout.
He, however, reminded the public that this program is to help the community, local vendors, and local businesses get assistance they need because of the high costs of fuel and inflation.
“This is also in lieu of a fuel voucher program. A fuel voucher program is only going to help those that probably [have a] vehicle. But this one here is even better than a fuel voucher program, because this is $500 for every taxpayer and their dependents,” Atalig said.
He noted that these debit cards have an expiration date and the funds must be used by Jan. 31, 2023,” he said.
“We want the people to use the money now. Let them use it to help our businesses that need the assistance, and this will help them as well,” Atalig said.