WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) announced yesterday a set-aside of at least $205 million in disaster grants for the Marianas and American Samoa.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development notified Congress that it was holding the funds in reserve for the two insular areas pending additional analysis of recovery needs next month. HUD expects to make the final allocation by Aug. 30.
“This is the first time to my knowledge the Marianas will be eligible for Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery,” Sablan said. “We are familiar with assistance that [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and other federal first responders provide, but CDBG-DR goes beyond the short-term need to keep people safe and get services up and running after a disaster.
“After the first responders have done their work, CDBG-DR takes over to help with the long-term needs a community has to get back on its feet. That can mean housing and other infrastructure,” he said.
“Importantly, the grant funds can also be used to help revive the economy,” Sablan added, “and for the local cost-share of FEMA’s public assistance.”
The local cost-share to match FEMA grants will be especially useful now that the Commonwealth government is losing revenues and putting austerity measures in place.
Congress appropriated the CDBG-DR money in last year’s Public Law 115-254 to help those areas struck by typhoons, hurricanes, and wildfires in 2018. Of the $1.7 billion provided in that law California, Florida, and North Carolina will get base allocations of $492 million, $448 million, and $337 million, respectively. Four other states are eligible for an average $49 million each, HUD announced today.
Prior to getting a grant, a state or territory must submit a plan for the use of CDBG-DR funds and have the plan approved. HUD must also certify the grant recipient has in place an adequate system of financial controls and procurement processes. Up to five percent of the grant funds may be used to ensure proper grant management.
“This is just the first of the money I have been working on in Congress for Marianas disaster recovery,” Sablan added. “On Friday, the House passed an appropriation bill with another $2.2 billion of CDGB-DR funds that can be used by communities like ours hit by disasters in 2018, as well as over $100 million specifically set-aside for the Marianas.
“Now, we are waiting for the Senate to take action.”
The House passed a disaster aid bill in January with CDBG-DR and other recovery money. The Senate has not acted on that bill, however, because President Trump opposes funding in it for Puerto Rico. (PR)