Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider (R-Tinian), Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, Commonwealth Utilities Corp. acting executive director William Gilmore, and Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan) praised the administration’s presentation of details of how the CNMI government plans to spend over $512 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding.
In an interview shortly after Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig completed his ARPA presentation Friday at the Hibiscus Hall of the Crowne Plaza, Hofschneider said it was a very good presentation—generally speaking—and that he certainly appreciates it.
Hofschneider said he wants to ask Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and his team to consider decentralizing a lot of the processes in executing the projects and programs using ARPA money.
For example, he said, Rota and Tinian mayors should be given the authority to create their own processing or team so anything that’s allocated to them for projects, they ‘ll work on them with all the regulations and procurements, the request for proposals, and other processes.
“Because it’s time-sensitive, we need to devise, we need to decentralize,” he said.
With the availability of the ARPA money, Hofschneider said, the challenge right now is the structure to carry out or execute all these projects, from groundbreaking to ribbon-cutting, especially infrastructure.
He noted the time sensitivity of all the funds.
“We need to hear the structural side of this. How are they going to flush this down?” he asked.
Apatang said it was a good presentation and that he’s glad that Torres did that so now everything is clear with ARPA.
Before the presentation, Apatang said, a lot of people were wondering what’s going to happen and where the government is spending all the ARPA money. “So now that it’s [spending plan] out, it’s clear. We know where all the money is going. So I’m very happy and now I can do what I need to do. I got a lot of things to do in the island of Saipan,” he said.
On the state level, the CNMI will be appropriated $467,245,670; on the municipality levels, Saipan will get $22,803,551; Tinian, $11,334,010; Rota, $8,649,665; and the Northern Islands, $2,043,269.
Apatang said with the ARPA money, he will build what the people of Saipan have been dreaming about—its own Saipan Mayor’s Office building. “That’s my priority—build the mayor’s office so we can have a permanent building,” he said.
Apatang said every Saipan mayor that comes in has to find a new location for the office.
Gilmore said CUC is grateful for the opportunity to use ARPA funds for the benefit of the community.
“Every dollar is [going to] help us…improve not only the water system but everything,” Gilmore said.
He said they are going to work with appropriate agencies to make wise use of the funding.
Gilmore said he believes CUC will get at least $60 million to $70 million.
Demapan said he is just grateful learning about the spending plan. “It’s a very exciting time,” Demapan said.
The lawmaker said the CNMI has never had this opportunity to spend half a billion dollars to help the Commonwealth recover from a disaster or, in this case, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So I’m grateful and, at the same time, hopeful after today’s presentation. I really believe now that there’s hope for our future,” he said.
Demapan said he just would like to make sure that all work together to ensure that this ARPA money is spent in accordance with the guidelines, but most of all, to be spent in the two-year timeline. “If we don’t do that, then we lose out on a very big opportunity. So I will definitely be there to support this initiative, and make sure that we do what we can to improve the lives of every person in the Northern Marianas,” he said.