72-hour work starts April 24

In general, Executive Branch departments will shut down every other Monday

Gov. Arnold I. Palacios is cutting the work schedule of some Executive Branch employees to just 72 hours starting April 24, 2023, and through the end of Fiscal Year 2023.

Affected employees are those under the Executive Branch whose personnel costs were funded in whole or in part by American Rescue Plan Act funds or local revenues.

In a directive issued Thursday addressed to all Executive Branch departments, offices, and activity heads, Palacios said generally, Executive Branch departments, offices, and activities will shut down every other Monday following April 24, 2023.

The reduction in work hours does not apply to federally-funded programs and functions of the government, or to CNMI government employees who are funded 100% by other federal funding sources, whose federally funded salaries require a local match.

Citing that the fiscal challenges the CNMI faces impact the whole government and the whole community, Palacios urged the Legislature and Judiciary, as well as the autonomous agencies of the government, to similarly implement cost-containment measures, particularly with respect to operations or personnel that were funded in whole or in part by ARPA in fiscal year 2023.

“We must all do our part to overcome this financial crisis,” the governor said.

With fiscal recovery being one of his administration’s highest priorities, Palacios said he asks for the full cooperation of all government employees and appointees to ensure that public resources are used conservatively and efficiently in the delivery of essential services.

“Our collective goals are fiscal stability, more efficient government operations, and improvements in the delivery and responsiveness of public services as efficiency measures are implemented,” he said.

Palacios has already imposed restrictions on personnel actions; overtime restrictions; travel restrictions; limitations on contracts, leases, and subscriptions; termination of nonessential cellphones and land lines; utility conservation and efficiency; and fuel conservation.

On flexible work schedules, the governor said the government must remain open for business during regular working hours, Tuesday through Friday, 7:30am to 4:30pm, including lunch hour.

To minimize disruptions to public services, all government offices under the Executive Branch are directed to immediately stop the practice of shutting down for lunch during working hours.

Palacios directed the heads of Executive Branch departments, offices, and activities to cross-train and empower staff expeditiously and as needed to ensure that public services are not stopped or delayed simply because knowledgeable employee is on leave or otherwise unavailable.

He encouraged the heads of Executive Branch departments, offices, and activities to consider submitting alternative plans that will achieve the goal of reducing personnel costs by at least 10%.

The governor said these alternative plans shall be subject to his review and approval.

He said alternative plans may include shifting locally-funded or ARPA-funded employees to federally-funded accounts, where feasible.

Plans may also include implementing flexible work schedules, staggered employees time, or reassignments of staff as needed to ensure that government services and hours of operation continue without disruption.

On travel restrictions, Palacios directed strict limits on locally-funded travel for essential purposes, that is for public health and welfare, public safety, fiscal recovery, or the critical infrastructure needs of the Commonwealth.

For travel under federally funded programs, employees and appointees must obtain grantor approval prior to the issuance of travel advances.

The governor directed the Office of Personnel Management to work with all departments, offices and activities under the Executive Branch to = implement this directive.

He further directed special assistant for the Office of Management and Budget Virginia C. Villagomez and acting Secretary of Finance Tracy B. Norita to monitor personnel cost savings across the Executive Branch every pay period through the end of fiscal year 2023, and report to him on the subject at least monthly.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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