The Department of Finance is set to release $3.48 million in bonus payments to be equally distributed to all retirees and beneficiaries by the end of the week.
In an announcement yesterday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the progress of the CNMI economy has enabled the government to provide $3,484,693.88 as a bonus that will be equally distributed to retirees and their beneficiaries this year.
“For the last three years, we have prioritized improving our government’s ability to provide quality public service to our islands and make good on all our judgements and obligations. We’ve made sure our public servants are taken care of for their years of hard work and dedication to the community,” he said.
“We can’t move forward as a community until we take care of those who created this foundation for the progress we see today,” he added. “We hope to continue this work of progress together as we move forward and improve the lives of our entire Commonwealth.”
Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson said that under the terms of the settlement agreement that the CNMI entered into to address the CNMI retirement issues, the Torres administration recognizes that retirees are faced with increased cost of living expenses, and that the administration remains committed to releasing an annual bonus to retirees in place of the COLA until such time that the settlement agreement ends and the COLA can be reinstated.
“I am very excited to announce that we have released bonus payments for retirees and beneficiaries. At this time, we are not able to implement the COLA but we have maintained our commitment to the settlement agreement and we thank Gov. Torres and the Legislature for the third successful bonus disbursement for retirees,” Larson said.
Larson reminds all retirees that this bonus is subject to taxes and must be filed as part of one’s tax filing in April next year.
Torres added that through the collaboration of the Legislature and the Department of Finance, the administration’s commitment to meet the government’s obligation to the retirees of the CNMI continues.
“It is part of our ongoing commitment to pay in full the $30 million to the settlement fund as part of our annual obligation and improving our overall fiscal position and our fiduciary duty overall. It is a priority of this administration to pay what is due to our retirees, and I commend the Department of Finance and the Legislature for joining me in being proactive. We will continue our work of addressing our longstanding obligations and bettering the lives of the entire Commonwealth with a growing economy. We hope to continue building on this commitment into the next fiscal year,” Torres said.
Larson said that a criteria that will be followed for paying out the bonuses to ensure that benefits to survivors and a surviving spouse without qualified children will receive an equal share of the bonus just as a retiree and that a surviving spouse with minor children and/or children over 18 and under 22 years of age who are full-time students at an accredited educational institution will also equally share the bonus, based on what is determined to be a retiree’s share.
Surviving minor child(ren) and/or child(ren) over 18 and under 22 years of age who are full-time students at an accredited educational institution will equally share the bonus based on what is determined to be a retiree’s share and surviving minor child(ren) under the supervision of a legal guardian will equally share the bonus based on what is determined to be a retiree’s share.
Based on this criteria for distribution set by the Department of Finance for the current retiree membership, a total of 2,744 retiree members are eligible to receive the bonus as of the benefit payment period ending on Oct. 15, 2018. Each retiree or his qualified survivors will receive a total amount of $1,275.51, inclusive of the 12 opt outs.
The settlement fund is working with the Department of Finance to disburse the bonus by Friday, Oct. 26, 2018.
During fiscal year 2018, the Department of Finance met its obligation by remitting a total of $45 million within the fiscal year, as well as the additional payment of the supplemental funds to cover the remaining portion of the retirees’ benefits to keep members at the full 100 percent payment of their benefits.
In 2016 and 2017, each retiree and beneficiary received a bonus of just over $1,200. (PR)