The U.S. Congress has appropriated $1.7 billion to help communities like the CNMI that were hit by natural disasters last year and that is funding that the CNMI could tap into.
In line with this, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) recently wrote Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to encourage his administration to start gathering and preparing the requirements needed to avail the Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Recovery funds.
The Commonwealth experienced Super Typhoon Yutu last October.
The funds appropriated by Congress were for CDBG-DR but, unlike the regular CDBG that other states and territories receive annually, the DR funds need advanced planning before submission.
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, devastated by hurricanes Maria and Irma, had just began to take advantage of the CDBG-DR funds after qualifying under Public Law 115-223, which covered all disasters that occurred in 2017.
Sablan said: “The [CNMI] will have to submit a plan to use the funds for long-term recovery and restoration of infrastructure and housing, and for economic revitalization.”
“Websites will have to be built so the public can have full view of procurements and contracting. And the Commonwealth will have to have robust financial controls so that CDBG-DR funds are only used for needs not met by [Federal Emergency Management Agency] funding. This can all take as long as six months.”
He added that another $1.2 billion in federal money—appropriated through H.R. 268 that would make supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30—was passed by the Democratic Party-dominated House and will be discussed by the GOP-filled Senate later this month.
Sablan is also reminding families that qualified for FEMA’s Permanent Housing Construction program that the deadline to opt-in is on Friday, March 22. Over 900 families from Saipan and Tinian are eligible to avail of the program, which would either build you a new typhoon-resilient home or repair damaged homes.
“The Marianas qualifies because of the scale of destruction from Typhoon Mangkhut (Rota) and Yutu, and because of limited access to materials and labor. Eligible survivors who decide to take advantage of the program will end up with a typhoon-resilient home, built to standard, at no cost to themselves,” said Sablan.
“FEMA will take care of labor, materials, permitting, and construction. I encourage all eligible survivors to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity for a safer [and] stronger home, and for greater peace of mind for the future.
For more information, eligible families can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to choose to avail of the said program that was made available to the CNMI for the first time.