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Atalig to CCC: No

ARPA fund will be not be used to aid CCC operation; instead, $2M taken from CCC for COVID-19 response will be returned
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Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig disclosed Friday that the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres will assist the Commonwealth Casino Commission to finance their operations, but using other sources of funding and not from the American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Speaking at a radio news briefing, Atalig said that using the CNMI’s ARPA funds to fund CCC’s operation is not a high priority of the administration.

“We are in discussions on how to assist the CCC with other sources of funds,” said Atalig in response to Saipan Tribune’s request for comments about CCC’s appeal to the Torres administration to finance CCC’s personnel and operation cost in the amount of $3.19 million using ARPA funding.

Atalig revealed that he did borrow $2 million from CCC early last year to help with the COVID-19 response and mitigation plans. “I did promise that I would get those funds back to them,” he said, adding that the amount should be sufficient for CCC’s operations, considering that Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s casino is not in operation, which means CCC shouldn’t need full funding.

Atalig said they will make sure that CCC employees are paid. “But we also do need to focus on their priorities right now, knowing that there is no casino operating at the moment,” he said, adding he is unsure exactly what projects CCC employees are working on, since the casino is not open. One of the ideas being considered is for CCC’s staff to help with the enforcement and audit projects of the Division of Revenue and Taxation. Atalig said he is actually in communication with CCC about coming up with a memorandum of understanding on this. He assured that CCC staff will get paid so they can also help Finance.

At the CCC board’s monthly meeting last April 22, CCC acting executive director Vicente B. Babauta disclosed that the commission sent Torres a letter last March 30 that conveyed their financial challenges and asks for Torres’ help to finance their personnel and operation cost using ARPA money.

Babauta said the commission received the governor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 for the ARPA Volume IV submission to the Legislature, in which the proposed total expenditure request for fiscal year 2022 for the commission is $1,089.

Babauta said they have 39 full-time employees, including their lawyer.

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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