MVA board agrees to lift austerity measures
The Department of Finance will remit $250,000 in hotel occupancy tax collection next week to the Marianas Visitors Authority and $2.2 million more in January, for a total of $2.45 million remitted to the CNMI’s tourism body.
As this developed, the MVA’s board of directors approved during yesterday’s meeting the request of MVA managing director Priscilla M. Iakopo to lift the austerity measures for the staff, which means their 80-hour work week will be restored.
As of today, MVA is still owed $5.2 million in hotel occupancy tax collection for fiscal year 2019, Iakopo disclosed at the board meeting.
Iakopo said she met last Tuesday with Finance Secretary David Atalig, who informed her that he will be remitting $250,000 to MVA this week.
Iakopo said that Atalig stated that, upon the completion of the bond that the CNMI government is planning to float before the end of the year, $1 million more will be remitted to MVA by the week of Dec. 28.
She said Atalig mentioned that come January 2020, $300,000 will be remitted each week to MVA for a total of $1.2 million to pay the arrears owed MVA.
Under the law, 80% of the hotel occupancy tax collection goes to MVA, while 20% goes to the Settlement Fund.
Meanwhile, the MVA board approved Iakopo’s request to lift the austerity measures that MVA adopted last June that cut employee work hours from the regular 80-hour work week to 72.
Iakopo told the board that they did receive a memorandum from the Governor’s Office about the lifting of the austerity measures and restoring the 80-hour pay period.
Since the austerity measures were imposed, MVA has saved $60,000 and that majority of such saving was just for payroll, Iakopo said. She said $1,600 in operational expenses was part of the savings.
“We’re just asking if we can lift the austerity,” the managing director said, adding that they have set aside funding to cover the remaining month of December and two payrolls in January at the 80-hour work week.
“So we’re okay,” Iakopo said.
Upon hearing Iakopo’s presentation, MVA board chair Marian Aldan-Pierce said she needs board action on the motion to lift the austerity measures.
All board directors present agreed to lifting to the measures.
The austerity measures started last June 23 for MVA, affecting 36 staff, including Iakopo. By the Dec. 19 payday, MVA staff will start receiving the full or the 80-hour work week.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres recently issued Directive 2020-001, which restores the 80-hour work schedule starting Nov. 24. Torres implemented the austerity measures due to cash flow woes in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu that devastated Saipan and Tinian in October 2018.