Mabelle Subang was finally able to claim her much needed financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after some banks in the CNMI agreed to ease their policies for Typhoon Soudelor survivors.
Subang said that Bank of Guam and FEMA called her to follow up and help her with her case. Finally, after more than two weeks from the time the money was first deposited in her account, she was able to claim it yesterday.
Subang is just one of the many residents on Saipan who had a hard time getting their financial assistance from FEMA. This is because they applied for FEMA assistance in the name of their U.S. citizen child but the bank account where the money was deposited was in their name as the parent.
To get around this stumbling block, Micronesian Legal Services Corporation created a form called “Statement of Parent/Person Indorsing on Behalf of Minor Child,” that the parent has to sign when withdrawing the FEMA aid.
“I signed the form as a parent endorsing a child,” Subang said.
This form, which authorizes parents to handle banking transactions for their children, is now accepted by five banks in the CNMI.
According to a statement from the Office of the Governor, the CNMI government, FEMA, MLSC, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce worked with the banks toward a resolution through a public-private partnership.
These banks—Bank of Guam, Bank of Saipan, BankPacific, City Trust Bank, and First Hawaiian Bank—have agreed to ease their policies.
“My office has been working in close coordination with President Obama’s representative, Mr. Stephen DeBlasio, [federal coordinating officer] FEMA, on this matter as well as our local banking institutions, the Chamber, and MLSC,” said Commerce Secretary Mark O. Rabauliman, who is also the CNMI banking director.
“I appreciate the accommodations provided by the participating banks to ease the burden on survivors who truly need their funds to rebuild their homes and property. This is part of the banking institutions meeting the needs of the survivors under the Community Reinvestment Act,” he added.
Aside from payments going to a member of a qualifying household who is not the owner of the household’s bank account, there were also problems with survivors who don’t have bank accounts.
As survivor assistance funds are not drawn on any bank but on the U.S. Treasury Department, banks also will typically not cash checks for people who do not have an account with them unless the check is drawn on that bank.
Most banks would also not honor a check or electronically transferred funds (ACH) made out to a minor child and endorsed by the parent.
Survivors who did open an account still could not immediately access their money because the banks put a hold on funds in newly created accounts for periods of time varying between one and 30 days. This results in a delay in the survivors’ ability to rebuild.
Most of the five banks said they also would modify their hold policy for those with a signed form.
These forms have been translated into Carolinian, Chamorro, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Tagalog and are available at the participating banks or from MLSC.
Rabauliman also encouraged other banks to participate in easing their policies.
“For those bank institutions who are not participating at this time, I encourage them to do so,” he said.