The House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee paved the way yesterday for the full House to vote on a bill that would create a Commonwealth Worker Fee Revolving Fund that specifies who gets the authority over the fee that is collected from CNMI employers when they hire a foreign worker.
CNMI employers pay U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services $200 for each foreign employee they hire. USCIS then turns over a portion of that money to the CNMI government.
House Bill 2191, introduced by committee chair Rep. Ivan Blanco (R-Saipan), will create the revolving fund and designate the Labor secretary as the fund’s expenditure authority.
The Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018—or U.S. Public Law 115-218—was passed, in part, to incentivize the hiring of the U.S. workers in the CNMI, and certain fees collected pursuant to this law are transferred to the CNMI government for the sole and exclusive purpose of funding vocational education, apprenticeships, or other training programs for U.S. workers.
“A certain amount of that [Commonwealth worker fee] is dedicated for the CNMI to use to train U.S. eligible workers in the vocational skills, trade skills, mechanics, construction,” said Blanco.
He said the bill is also to clarify that it is the Labor secretary that is the expenditure authority of those funds, and nobody else.
“The bill is to say, from henceforth [from its enactment], the secretary of Labor will be in charge of these money,” Blanco said.
He said that when U.S. Public Law 115-218 was enacted, the expenditure authority was first given to the CNMI Department of Labor, then the CNMI Scholarship Office, and then back to Labor, “so it provides confusion to…the recipients of the money” such as the Northern Marianas Trades Institute, the Northern Marianas College, and Public School System.
“As you may be aware in the news lately, there was an article regarding the possible shutdown of the NMTI and, with the passage of this bill, we believe that we can reverse those type of instances outright,” said Labor administrative hearing officer Jacqueline Nicolas.
“In order to avoid any kind of delay in making sure our educational entities are fully-funded, we hope that this bill would be passed,” she added.
H.B. 21-91, when enacted, would establish a special fund within the Commonwealth Treasury, which shall be known and designated as the Commonwealth Worker Fee Revolving Fund, to be accounted for separately from the general fund.
Under the bill, funds collected pursuant to the NMI Workforce Act shall be deposited into the revolving fund every fiscal year, which will exclusively be used to fund vocational education, apprenticeships, or other training programs for U.S. workers, as identified in the approved Governor’s Plan under the NMI Workforce Act.
The revolving fund monies shall be available for expenditure without further appropriation and without fiscal year limitations.
MD: House committee adopts CW-Fee revolving fund bill
KW: Rep. Ivan Blanco, HB 21-91, CNMI Department of Labor