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Biden reverses Trump on waiver for FEMA grants

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Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said over the weekend that President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has announced that the federal government will cover 100% of the CNMI’s COVID-19-related costs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency grants.

Sablan said Biden made the decision just two weeks after the Trump administration denied Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ request for a waiver of the local match required for COVID-related FEMA grants.

The delegate said the new president understands that the CNMI and state governments throughout the nation are cash-strapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We cannot afford a local-share of FEMA assistance. At the same time, we cannot let that cash shortage slow down our response to COVID or prevent people in need from getting help,” he said.

Sablan said Biden sees the big picture and made the right call.

Sablan said the president’s directive means all work eligible under FEMA’s existing COVID-19 policies, including increasing medical capacity, non-congregate sheltering, and emergency feeding distribution, going back to January 2020, will be reimbursed 100% by the federal government.

He said the president is also expanding the activities eligible for 100% reimbursement.

“This includes personal protective equipment and disinfecting services and supplies. It also includes safely opening and operating eligible schools, child-care facilities, health care facilities, domestic violence shelters, transit systems, and other costs incurred after Biden became president,” Sablan said.

Torres recently stated that the government is going to appeal the denial of the Commonwealth’s request for a waiver on the local match required for COVID-19-related FEMA grants.

Torres had expressed optimism that FEMA under the new Biden administration will reconsider the CNMI government’s appeal because they are fully aware of what is happening in the CNMI.

Acting FEMA administrator Robert Fenton’s Jan. 15 denial letter told Torres that, based on their review of all of the information available, it was determined that the increased level of funding that Torres had requested is not warranted.

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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