Kilili: COVID relief bill will help CNMI

Posted on Dec 22 2020


An agreement has been reached on a new economic relief package to help people in the Marianas and communities all around America get through the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on passage Monday in Washington with the Senate to follow quickly, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) yesterday.

The $908-billion spending bill will continue the pandemic unemployment assistance that has helped so many Marianas workers, who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. Federal pandemic unemployment compensation will also restart and continue through March 14, although at a reduced rate of $300 weekly.

Direct payments of $600 will go to taxpayers, similar to the CARES Act economic impact payments earlier this year. Individuals earning under $75,000 and couples earning under $150,000 will qualify. They will also receive $600 for each child dependent.

Marianas public schools will be able to stay open with teachers and other staff paid out of a special set-aside of $409 million for insular area Kindergarten through Grade 12 education. College students will receive an increase in Pell grants and special funds are allocated for minority serving institutions such as Northern Marianas College.

And the $14 million that Gov. Ralph Torres told Sablan was necessary, so no one in the Marianas would be cut from the Nutritional Assistance Program or have their benefits reduced, is also in the bill.

“The Democratic Caucus has been meeting virtually all weekend to reach agreement on this COVID relief package,” Sablan said. “My first concern in these sessions is always to insist the Marianas are included in the larger national programs, as we did with unemployment and the direct payments to individuals, when the CARES Act passed last March.

“But there are always other areas, more specific to the Marianas, that also require persistent reminders to leadership and the staff who are writing the bill, such as food aid, because we are not part of SNAP, the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. I have been talking with [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Appropriations Committee Chair [Rep. Nita M.] Lowey this weekend and throughout the process of putting together a new relief package. They are both good champions of the U.S. insular areas and I am very grateful for their assistance,” Sablan said.

Text of the FY21 omnibus appropriation and COVID relief bill is expected to be released shortly. (PR)

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