Federal funds now ready for CNMI departments


CNMI government departments can now start tapping federal funding as recovery efforts continue in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday met with local government agencies and eligible non-profit organizations on Capital Hill on how to apply for FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.

According to the FEMA, the program “provides federal funds to reimburse a minimum of 75 percent of the costs for removing debris, conducting emergency protective measures, and repairing levees, roads, bridges, public utilities, water control facilities, public buildings and parks. Mitigation funding may be considered in each project category.”

William Penn, FEMA external affairs spokesperson, said funding has no cap and that agencies need only to identify their projects.

“But first, they [agencies] have to apply,” Penn said.

According to him, all agencies are encouraged to fill out the request for public assistance. After filling out the RPA, representatives from FEMA will have a one-on-one sit-down meeting with the representative of the department.

“We have FEMA specialists whose primary goal is to have these sit-down discussions,” Penn said.

According to him, FEMA is expecting applications to start coming in starting yesterday, immediately after the meeting.

Penn said FEMA is emphasizing that the fund requests will have to be “done right and should be legal.”

Some of the questions the CNMI departments asked FEMA, according to Penn, is on the bidding of projects. “We want to do it right from the very start, and we hope all departments go for the assistance,” he said.

During the briefing, one of the discussions focused on debris removal projects.

According to FEMA, a new system called a “sliding scale” will allow the departments to get higher than 75 percent of the cost share, provided the departments satisfy FEMA requirements.

FEMA said if a department can identify and complete a project in 30 days, the agency can give up to 85 percent share of the costs. If the project extends from 31 to 90 days, the cost share from FEMA will be 80 percent, and if the project goes beyond 90 days, the usual 75 percent cost share will be given.

FEMA, however, cautions that projects that will go beyond 180 days will no longer receive federal funding.

Departments are also encouraged to have a “debris management plan” to avail of the funding assistance.

The FEMA can also help departments make their “estimates” as to project cost, and once a department agrees with the estimate, the funding can be expedited.

However, FEMA cautions that in the event that a department avails of, say $5 million, but exceeds the amount, FEMA will physically close the project and no funding will be made available.

Funding for identified projects are meant to restore project areas to their “pre-disaster” conditions.

Drainage works
Department of Public Works Secretary James Ada, who was at the FEMA meeting, said his department will prioritize ongoing cleanup as well as drainage repairs.

Ada said he has set a meeting with FEMA immediately after the briefing yesterday.

The official cited that Saipan’s drainage system needs to be urgently cleaned to avoid the risk of flooding in cases of a heavy downpour.

He said inspections have been conducted and that drainage systems have been found to be severely clogged. Ada said DPW has enough manpower and equipment but will still meet with FEMA for additional funding assistance.

Financial impact
On Wednesday, Gov. Eloy S. Inos held his first meeting with Cabinet heads immediately after the FEMA briefing.

According to press secretary Ivan Blanco, the governor is encouraging all departments to avail of the assistance. The governor was also briefed on ongoing activities and the general situation in the CNMI.

Blanco said the governor is also encouraging government employees to join volunteer groups.

Answering queries from the media, Blanco said the disasters hitting the CNMI will impact government revenues.

“First, the submarine cable, then this typhoon. These will have impacts on government revenues,” Blanco said, adding that revenues are likely to take a “significant hit.”

While he did not specify dollar figures, Blanco said the Office of the Governor and the Department of Finance are looking “at making some adjustments.”

Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at joel_pinaroc@saipantribune.com.

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.