$191M for Tinian Divert Airfield project
President Joe Biden sent to Congress Monday the fiscal year 2023 budget that includes, among other fundings, $30.7 million for the Marianas Nutrition Assistance Program, and $27.25 million for the CNMI Public School System, or more than double this year’s budget, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) over the weekend.
Sablan said in his e-kilili newsletter that, with the increase to $30 million Congress included in the fiscal year 2022 appropriation—and Biden’s recommendation to increase further, the CNMI will now able to provide food aid or food stamp on par with the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
NAP funding was just $10.6 million annually when Sablan was first elected to Congress in 2008, becoming the first delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the CNMI.
On school funding, the delegate said Biden’s recommendation would bring an estimated $27.25 million to PSS, an increase of $14.99 million over this year.
He said the president proposed an increase in federal support for elementary and secondary schools similar to what the House wanted for fiscal year 2022, but the Senate cut back.
Sablan said other highlights of Biden’s budget is the $191 million for the Tinian divert airfield. He said the president recommends continuing to invest in the development of the Tinian divert airfield—$58 million for airfield development phase 1, $92 million for fuel tanks with pipeline and hydrant system, and $41 million for parking apron.
On the Pell grant, Sablan said Congress increased the maximum grant for college student tuition assistance by $400 in fiscal year 2022. He said Biden now proposes again raising that aid, which goes to some 900 Marianas college students, by another $1,775. The delegate said the maximum Pell grant would then be $8,670.
On insular water and sewer, Sablan said the House would have permanently established a 1.5% set-aside for water and sewer infrastructure for the Marianas and other insular areas in the INVEST Act that they passed last year.
“But the Senate had other ideas. That means we must continue to put the set-aside in each year’s appropriation legislation,” he said.
Sablan said Biden agreed in his budget to support funding at that level, which has brought over $109 million 24-hour water to the Marianas.
To lower power costs, the delegate said the Biden administration will continue to push for increased funding to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels and lower the cost of electricity in the Marianas and other insular areas.
He said last year the House approved $15.5 million for the Department of the Interior’s Energizing Insular Communities program, although the Senate cut that back to $11 million in the final fiscal year 2022 bill. Sablan said Biden’s recommendation for fiscal year 2023 is again $15.5 million.
He said Interior Department funding for the Coral Reef Initiative and compact impact compensation would also increase.
On Medicaid, Sablan said although the Marianas is receiving $64.01 million in federal Medicaid assistance this year and the local cost share is set at 17%— lower than all but one U.S. state—their ultimate goal remains full inclusion in the Medicaid program with no limit on funding and a local cost share based on the number of people in the Marianas below the federal poverty level. Sablan said Biden supports that goal in his fiscal year 2023 budget proposal.
The $64.01 million in federal Medicaid assistance is 10 times more than when Sablan first came to Congress.
The delegate said Biden’s budget proposal gives them a good basis for setting funding for fiscal year 2023 at levels that will benefit the people of the Marianas.
“The hard work now begins to get the President’s recommendations passed by the House and the Senate,” Sablan said.