FEMA transitions into permanent home construction

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency is transitioning into its permanent housing program following the closing of the Temporary Emergency Tent and Roofing Installation Support program last Wednesday.

According to FEMA federal coordinating officer Bern Ruiz, FEMA has been in communication with its Region 9 headquarters to discuss the details about the permanent housing program that will be implemented in the CNMI.

“We’re in the process of determining with our headquarters what that home would be, how much it would cost, what we will need in terms of resources for labor and materials to bring here, so once we get to that point where we know how many homes exactly that we’re going to build per household we will be prepared for it,” he said.

As they wait for word from headquarters about the program, FEMA will be screening applicants who are eligible for permanent housing repairs based on the damage sustained by their homes, Ruiz said.

“Based on the last count before we closed [the] Disaster Loan Operation Center, we had about 9,400 so we’re calling out to those applicants to determine their eligibility for permanent home construction,” he said.

Aside from resources like building materials, Ruiz said that FEMA intends to fly in volunteers but this is still in discussion.

“We’re going to bring in some volunteers like the Mennonites, the Catholic Charities. …We did that after [Typhoon] Soudelor [in 2015] and we’re going do that again. We fully understand the challenges that the CNMI is faced with in terms of where it is in the Pacific [but] we will be here for as long as it takes to bring the CNMI back to where it was before Mangkhut and Yutu but it’s a lot of work and it’s going to take time,” he said.

Ruiz wants to assure the CNMI community that the TETRIS program was only the beginning.

“We got roofs, we got people into a dry area, to the tents. I know it’s not the ideal way of living. [but] emergency management is best when locals execute the plans to respond and recover and the CNMI government is there to manage all that and FEMA comes in with support and resources. We’re big and slow, but we’ll get there and we will stay as long as we need to be,” he said.

According to Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Clyde Norita, the Koblerville fire station will now serve as FEMA’s permanent housing program facility.

“We’ve shut this down as a Fire Station since the typhoon. The assets have all been moved down to Susupe. This whole base will be turned into that [FEMA] facility. From here they will collect their needed supplies, materials, and head out and start to either rebuild the houses or build permanent houses,” he said.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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