The CNMI Department of Finance received on Monday afternoon the $481.9 million that was allocated to the CNMI from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, according to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres yesterday, who said his priority is keeping government employees at 80 hours per pay period and ensuring the continued success of the CNMI’s COVID-19 response.
The disbursement of the funding comes after the CNMI Department of Finance submitted its drawdown request last Tuesday to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, according to an Office of the Governor press statement.
The funding authorized by ARPA—$481,876,521—was formally requested by the Torres-Palacios administration and provides emergency funding for the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, replenishes lost government revenue due to the pandemic, and brings back jobs within the CNMI government that were lost during the pandemic.
In addition, funding has also been provided for capital projects, infrastructure improvement, additional rental assistance, and small business credit expansion.
Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios will be meeting with the Legislature’s leadership to discuss the further implementation of their spending plan. Speaking at a radio news briefing last Friday, Torres said he will be reaching out to Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian) and House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) this week.
“Lt. Gov. Palacios and I thank our federal partners for working diligently with us in approving our implementation plan for this much needed funding for our people. We also thank [Finance Secretary] David Atalig and his team for their work throughout this process. Among our priorities for our spending plan include keeping our government employees at 80 hours per pay period and ensuring our COVID-19 response remains successful. We will continue to work with our Legislature leadership as we implement this plan to help our community in need,” said Torres.
Last Friday, Torres said they were still finalizing some numbers and data pertaining to the ARPA funding allocated to the CNMI.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) recently announced that the U.S. Treasury has allocated $481,876,521 in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for the CNMI and has opened the application portal.
Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig told Saipan Tribune yesterday that the CNMI will get an estimated total of $507 million in ARPA funding—not $515 million as was previously estimated.
Atalig explained that ARPA has different sections of funding and that the $481.9 million that came in on Monday is the amount from Section 602 of the funds for the CNMI.
“Municipalities get about $11 million and we don’t know exactly yet how much for infrastructure. We anticipate about $12 million,” he said.
At the same press briefing Friday, Torres also stated that one of their priorities at this point is to make sure that they emphasize the importance of “herd immunity” and that they continue to push for “herd immunity” and vaccination.
“As you can see, this issue of COVID, we are definitely not out of the woods. We’re seeing it out,” Torres said.
He said they don’t like to use other places as an example, but that at times they need to, to be mindful that it’s still around. He pointed at what’s happening in India, where they have a staggering number of COVID-19 cases—not just positive cases but also fatalities.
Torres said they also continue to see a number of cases increases in the United States.
“On behalf of the lieutenant governor, our family, please encourage our family members, our loved ones, relatives, friends, co-workers to make sure they get a vaccine shot as soon as possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, Torres commended the Governor’s Economic Council of Advisors for the “hard work they have done to the community.” He also praised the House’s minority bloc for working hard with their community outreach program. The governor said the minority bloc just finished cleaning and repainting the Filcom pavilion at the Civic Center in Susupe last Thursday. A couple of weeks ago, the minority bloc also finished repainting and beautifying the Carolinian Utt.
“So I just wanted to give a shout-out to them, and thank them for all their hard work in the community,” Torres said. (With Ferdie de la Torre)