The Board of Education has approved to pay the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. over $96,000 in a move that would make the Public School System eligible for assistance under the Community Development Block Grant program.
PSS acting Finance and Budget director Kimo Rosario told the board in their meeting last month that PSS should prioritize paying its debt with NMHC, as the CDBG’s Disaster Recovery program can help PSS with its funding issues on repairs for its schools.
This debt of over $96,000 was accrued because PSS did not return the grant funding it received for at least three major school projects that were never implemented or lacked proper documentation. These projects were the Marianas High School’s collateral equipment, the proposed swimming pool project at the Saipan Southern High School, and the library extension of Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School.
With this payment, PSS will be eligible to receive funding from the CDBG-DR. However, this payment does not guarantee that PSS will get the money but PSS has already sent applications and proposal to NMHC. Rosario said Gov. Ralph DLG previously assured that PSS will be approved under the CDBG-DR program, as NMHC will be managing the CDBG-DR funds for the recovery projects.
And although PSS may receive this funding, the CDBG-DR program funding will only cover a portion of the costs of repairs, Rosario said. “For example, if the Hopwood [Middle School] repairs costs $24 million, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency covers $10 million, the CDBG-DR funding will cover the remaining $14 million,” he said during the BOE’s special meeting yesterday.
Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada agreed with Rosario’s initiative to get the debt dealt with, as the CDBG-DR program will open doors for PSS to be able to begin and complete its projects to not only repair but expand its schools.
PSS is slated to receive over $700,000 worth of reimbursements from FEMA and Ada said that getting the CDBG-DR funding will boost the process of getting PSS back up and running.
The CDBG-DR program is under the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. HUD announced on Tuesday that the CNMI will be getting over $243 million for recovery funding from Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit Saipan and Tinian on October 2018.