Atalig: $21.7M COVID Relief Funds already spent
‘Sablan should help get reimbursement of $23.5M in CNMI expenses during Yutu, pandemic response’
Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig said yesterday that the $21.7 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds that U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked about had already been spent by the CNMI government.
Atalig also disclosed that the CNMI government is currently awaiting reimbursement of $23.5 million in expenses it incurred during Super Typhoon Yutu and from the pandemic response.
In response to Saipan Tribune’s request for clarification about his letter to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), Atalig said all $36.3 million in CARES Act funding, including the $21.7 million, had already been spent but they have not finalized their report to the U.S. Treasury yet.
“The final report will reflect all funds spent with actual expenditures line item,” he said.
Atalig said they are still reconciling the expenses to ensure that they do not show an expense in CARES Act funding that was already reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or that has been requested for reimbursement.
“Keep in mind, FEMA has deemed some expenditures as unallowable for reimbursement, which then CARES Act [funds] can be used,” he said.
Atalig said the final report will be done before the deadline of Jan. 10, 2022.
Last week, Sablan wrote Gov. Ralph DLG Torres informing him that Pelosi had asked him about the $21.7 million COVID-19 relief funds for the CNMI that was expiring on Dec. 31, 2021. Sablan said that Pelosi had asked him (Sablan) for the governor’s plan of expenditure for these funds.
Atalig wrote his response to Sablan yesterday, where he said the various funding sources provided to the CNMI are a mix of various programs and have different reporting requirements.
Atalig said much of the local resources utilized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the natural disasters that preceded it have been incurred under the expectation of reimbursements.
He said the timely processing and remittance of these reimbursements is critical to the continued operation of the CNMI’s response and related efforts.
“This requires a process for first, pursuing and accounting for potential reimbursable costs, which takes additional effort to ensure all costs submitted are in compliance with federal regulations and guidance” he said.
Atalig said while Finance and the government wish to expeditiously use all available funds, they must do so in a manner that demonstrates accountability and prudent fiscal management as a responsible awarded entity.
Atalig said they appreciate Sablan’s concern with regard to the COVID-19 expenses and assured him that his interest in using these funds for healthcare and education has been a priority.
However, Atalig said, not included in Sablan’s request was the additional priority in support of the Commonwealth’s public safety, which have also been at the frontlines in the response to the pandemic. He said the expenses to these critical areas will be reported to the federal government when all information has been verified and reconciled.
In the meantime, Atalig said, Finance requests Sablan’s assistance in aiding in the receipt of these reimbursements necessary to adequately continue the response of the CNMI government to the current pandemic. “Reimbursements on the expenses we have incurred can put the CNMI government in a position to more rapidly respond to the evolving needs of these residents, and the needs of the many first responders who are actively engaged in the front lines to ensure community’s safety and well-being,” he said.
Atalig said the community has demonstrated a remarkable ability to rally together during this crisis, and it is their shared responsibility to ensure that the use of funds that support their sacrifices and commitment are well spent and managed on both the federal and local level.
This includes, he said, prudent accounting and accurate reporting of these expenses locally and the timely reimbursement of approved expenses from the federal government.