As of Q3, CNMI in $11M deficit due to pandemic
Atalig anticipates $20M FEMA reimbursement, other programs will help address deficit
As of third quarter of this fiscal year, the government is in $11 million deficit due to COVID-19 expenditures, according to Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig on Monday, but he said they are also expecting over $20 million in reimbursements from the federal government to help offset that deficit.
In response to a question about the deficit during a radio press briefing, Atalig said as they move into new fiscal year, they do their best to pay back and take care of outstanding invoices and expenditures from the previous fiscal years. He said the Planning and Budgeting Act requires the administration to retire the deficit within two years after the deficit has been identified.
The Finance secretary said their third quarter report shows about $11 million in deficit spending due to COVID-19 expenditures.
“As we know, we are still in a pandemic. We’re learning how to live with COVID, but it doesn’t end the efforts of what we are doing to help educate and share with the community about being COVID-free,” he said.
Atalig said they anticipate programs and projects to be coming online to help with releasing that deficit, especially into the new fiscal year.
“So we’re pretty excited about getting our financials to a better state as we continue to move away from the support that we receive from the federal government,” he said.
Atalig said they work hard to ensure that they have a good return on the investment programs that deal with the American Rescue Plan Act funds.
He said they are now rolling out a BOOST program for small businesses to help them grow and continue to be successful so that the government can get to the pre-COVID numbers in terms of revenue for the government.
Atalig said the administration is on track and doing well as expected because of the infusion of a lot of funds. He said the main driver in revenues is the wage and salary tax as the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds enabled the government to hire more people.
He said restoring those 20% in austerity also helped in the wages and salary taxes that go to the Commonwealth.
“We still try to be very conscious of our spending and try to prolong and utilize what ARPA funds we have today,” Atalig said.
He said they’re working hard to bring in international travel so that it generates more funds and revenue.
“We’re not just looking at Saipan. As you know, we have the Marianas Southern Airways coming online in a couple of weeks or next week,” said Atalig, adding that it will help also the economic outlook for both Rota and Tinian as more travel reach their islands and bring more tourists as well as commodities.
“So domestically, we’re doing great. We partner really well with the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. All these programs are coming together as we bring in and resume our tourism industry,” he said.
Atalig said they are excited to be opening up the Japan market on Sept. 1.
He said they are looking at other markets going forward to bring more tourists into the islands.
The Finance secretary said they are expecting some large reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the next two weeks. He said the reimbursement will help with the $11 million deficit.
“We have roughly over $20 million we are expecting very soon. And we have more reimbursements submitted in,” Atalig said.