Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has criticized some parts of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ spending plan for the American Rescue Plan Act funds that the CNMI has received, describing them as “reckless disregard” of the public treasury.
Sablan pointed out in an interview Friday that none of this federal money is “automatic.”
He pointed out that if the allocation of ARPA funding was based on population size, the CNMI would have gotten very little money so the U.S. Congress had to come up with a formula that would provide some fairness to the Commonwealth as a small territory.
“We figured out that, you know, there has to be a way,” he said.
The formula that Congress came up with paved the way for the CNMI to get the $500 million from ARPA, he added, which is how they were able to get ARPA money for the territories.
Yet now there is a plan to use some of that ARPA money in ways that could be better spent elsewhere. Sablan said he understands that Torres is spending ARPA money to develop Pagan.
He said the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. needs money to improve and expand services, while the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. needs new power engines. The delegate said much of the money should instead be going to CHCC and CUC because that will benefit the people in the long term.
“We spend a lot of money and, at the end, when the money is out, we’ve got nothing to show for it,” he said.
Sablan said the CNMI has also been spending money on hotels. He said for the travel bubble program, the CNMI subsidized each flight for $45,000. “We’re paying for the hotel rooms and then we’re giving them spending money,” the delegate said, adding that the CNMI got less than a hundred people that took part in the program. “How much [did] we spend? I don’t know yet but we spent a lot of money. Just think, $45,000 subsidy per flight, and now we have three flights a week.”
As of press time yesterday, Saipan Tribune was waiting for comments from the administration.