Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig said Tuesday that most of the $36 million the CNMI received under the first Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has been expended.
Testifying before the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), Atalig said the balance on that fund is less than $10,000.
“There’s probably some expenditures or encumbrances that probably could be liquidated. But generally speaking, the first CARES Act funds—the $36 million–we’ve received has been expended,” said Atalig in response to Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan).
Atalig said the Torres administration pretty much followed a plan on how to allocate the funds, but made adjustments to help out Rota, Tinian, the Judiciary, as well as the Legislature, with their funding needs related to COVID-19 response.
He said the pandemic was different as it’s not like a natural disaster that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was used to working on.
“A lot of things that dealt with the pandemic and COVID-19 and expenditures were pretty new in terms of what is allowable, not allowable,” Atalig said. “So at times, when we didn’t know what the answer was, we used the CARES Act money to respond to whatever COVID and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. chief executive officer Esther Muña recommended that we do,” he said.
Atalig said a lot of expenditures for COVID-19 was driven by the recommendation of Muña and her team and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
“And so when they shared with us their plans and how we can get through this, we just kind of listened and went with it,” he said.