An open letter to President Obama


Mr. President, I am writing in connection with FEMA’s Robert T. Stanford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act as Amended in April 2013, under Section 308 – Nondiscrimination in Disaster Assistance, (42 U.S.C 5151).

Section 102 – Definitions (42 U.S.C 5122) “States” means any states of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Sec. 308; Paragraph; (a) Regulations for Equitable and Impartial Relief Operations – The President shall issue, and may alter and amend, such regulations as may be necessary for the guidance of personnel carrying out federal assistance functions at the site of a major disaster or emergency. Such regulations shall include provisions for ensuring that the distribution of supplies, the processing of applications, and other relief and assistance activities shall be accomplished in an equitable and impartial manner, without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency, or economic status, and

Paragraph; (b) In Compliance with Regulations as Pre-requisite to Participation by other Bodies in Relief Operations – As a condition of participation in the distribution of assistance or supplies under this Act or of receiving assistance under this Act, governmental bodies and other organizations shall be required to comply with regulations relating to nondiscrimination promulgated by the President, and such other regulations applicable to activities within an area affected by a major disaster or emergency as he deems necessary for the effective coordination of relief efforts.

Under the FEMA Community Services, it describes the four programs that are administered by FEMA’s Community Services Section.  These programs are available to states, U.S. territories and/or federally recognized Indian tribal governments that have received a presidential declaration of a major disaster that includes Individual Assistance. 

Mr. President, on Aug. 6, 2015, you declared Northern Mariana Island, a U.S. territory, under the state of disaster after Typhoon Soudelor’s devastation.

In a press release dated Sept. 11, 2015, it says, “Regardless of immigration status, Soudelor survivors should still register for FEMA assistance. FEMA Individual Assistance is available to U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals, and qualified aliens who have disaster-related damage on Saipan.

The definition of qualified alien, by law, does NOT include temporary workers living on the island. However, any applicant, including CW-1: CNMI-Only Transitional Workers who has a qualifying person—such as a minor child who is a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien—in their household may be eligible for FEMA assistance.

This is great, but how about those who have no qualifying persons such as minor child who is a U.S. citizen? Aren’t they included in the “qualified aliens”?

CW-1 workers in the Northern Mariana Islands were also devastated and need assistance but FEMA personnel on site cannot do this without your amendment or alteration of such regulation as it is necessary for the guidance of personnel carrying out federal assistance functions in the Northern Mariana Island.

Mr. President, we CW-1 workers incurred typhoon related monetary expenses after Typhoon Soudelor because not all types of our daily needs are in-kind. We incurred unexpected financial expenses. Yes, FEMA and some other agencies provided in-kind assistance but on very limited items only, or a survival kind of relief goods.

While FEMA personnel are just complying with the rules on granting assistance, there must be a certain kind of consideration, especially when it comes to calamities. It is really very unfortunate that people like us CW workers are excluded from the FEMA assistance program, contradicting Robert T. Stanford Disaster Assistance Program Sec. 308. For example, CW-1 workers with totally roofless houses were denied FEMA assistance due to immigration status. An SBA loan application was denied due to salary is insufficient to pay the loan on a monthly basis. The applicant is currently receiving almost double the current CNMI minimum wage but was disqualified due to his insufficient earnings. How much more those employees that are receiving minimum wage who were badly devastated by Soudelor? The applicant just wanted to recover the money that has been spent on typhoon related purchases. In their press releases, everyone who registered with FEMA are encouraged to apply with SBA and if approved it’s up to the applicant if he/she wanted to get the whole approved amount or only a portion of it. Why deny someone if he will only get a portion of the approved loan based on his capacity to pay in order to recover the unexpected typhoon related expenses?

As of this writing, a lot of residential houses are still without power and water. People living in these areas are incurring monetary expenses for generator, gasoline, among others that cannot be replaced by FEMA’s in-kind disaster relief program such as counseling, community services, and legal services, among others.

Mr. President, you’ve approved the extension transitional workers program (CW1) until 2019 in Northern Mariana Islands because of labor shortage in the island, without any provision that in case of disaster or devastation, CW workers will be afforded with all the help it needed from all federally funded assistance programs such as FEMA.

On behalf of fellow CW-1 workers in the Northern Mariana Island who are in dire need, please extend assistance to us similar to that of U.S. citizens, permanent residents (green card) and/or qualified aliens by amending or altering Section 308 (Nondiscrimination in Disaster Assistance) of the Robert T. Stanford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

Carlito J. Marquez
Lower Base, Saipan

Carlito J. Marquez

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