Received $29.7M reimbursements for Yutu expenses
To date, the CNMI is still waiting on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse $32.5 million in costs associated with the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018, according to Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig yesterday, although some of that amount may be deemed “unallowable expenditure.”
Testifying before the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota), Atalig said their system reflects that the CNMI’s running expense balance for Yutu’s devastation is $32.5 million, pending FEMA reimbursement.
“This is my running balance in my system that we either need reimbursement or deemed unallowable expenditure,” the secretary told Saipan Tribune when asked for clarification.
In response to Rep. Leila Staffler’s (D-Saipan) question for clarification, Atalig said the CNMI spent over $100 millions for Yutu if they include all expenditures, including costs from component units.
Atalig said it’s all recorded as one huge disaster account.
To date, he said, the CNMI has received $29.7 million in reimbursements for Yutu.
Atalig said Yutu and COVID-19 are two different disasters and are accounted for separately.
He said in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, the Commonwealth received $5.4 million in reimbursements for Yutu expenses.
“We are still continuing to press on reimbursements from Yutu,” said Atalig, adding that to date they have many requests for reimbursement for that typhoon’s expenses.
He said they also submitted a request to reconsider those expenses that have been classified as non-reimbursable, although he said he does not have the details of the total number of what are deemed non-reimbursable.
“I am aware of one line item that’s very clear. And that’s the payroll of Yutu overtimes and response costs. Strictly on payroll,” said Atalig, citing that the CNMI incurred a total of about over $16 million for Yutu overtime payments. He said the CNMI only received $8 million as reimbursement.
“So in my book, it’s about 50%, half of that is being non-reimbursable and which the central government is liable,” he said.
Atalig said they do have a lot of project awards that are still pending to be completed such as the hazard mitigation projects. He said they’re looking at over $100 million worth of projects still waiting to get off the ground. Some of those projects are with the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s power division.
“I believe it’s over 1,000 more concrete poles that are still pending through hazard mitigation program,” he said.
Atalig said there is also this underground power project from the power plant in Lower Base to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. He said he believes CUC is still working on getting the underground power project to the airport.
He said the projects are going through a lot of permitting requirements that take time such as environmental assessments and reports.
Atalig said it’s a challenge for the CNMI to contract out these projects, especially with the labor shortage. “The administration is working on different avenues to find ways to bring in construction laborers,” he said.
Unfortunately with the pandemic, it is not helping the CNMI’s progress. “But it has not been forgotten. There’s a lot of projects and more projects that can help our economy and also harden our CNMI,” he added.