TO REVITALIZE ECONOMY AND END AUSTERITY
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) vows to continue pushing federal agencies to get the hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster relief funds that they approved in Congress “out the door” to rebuild and revitalize the CNMI economy and end the need for austerity.
In response to Saipan Tribune’s request for comments about the austerity measures recently implemented by the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Sablan said he pledged to Torres over the weekend to continue to work to bring more money to the Commonwealth economy.
He cited the $60 million in Medicaid money for this year, which was enacted last Dec. 20.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved two massive spending bills for fiscal year 2020 that included $120 million for Marianas Medicaid over the next two years.
All of the insular areas received the two-year funding, but the Marianas received the largest percentage increase. Marianas Medicaid for fiscal year 2020 was previously set at just $6.93 million for the year.
The delegate said Torres made the difficult decision to cut hours for government employees from the regular 80 hours to 64 under the austerity measures.
When asked whether the 64-hour cut is the best option to address the CNMI’s financial situation, Sablan replied: “I do not have access to the information the governor has about the Commonwealth’s financial situation. And it would be inappropriate for me, as our representative in U.S. Congress, to second-guess the governor on a matter of local governance.”
He is hoping that Commonwealth employees who are paid 100% with federal funds do not lose hours.
Sablan said cutting hours for federally-funded workers would hurt those individuals and their families. “It would unnecessarily take money out of our economy when we need it most. And it could jeopardize the future continuation of those federal programs in the Marianas,” he said.
The Torres-Palacios administration recently announced the implementation of a 64-hour work schedule of government employees starting on March 15, citing a $48.38-million drop in revenue estimates for fiscal year 2020 due to the residual economic effects of Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018 and the substantial adverse impact of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Under Torres’ directive 2020-002, business hours for departments and agencies under the Executive Branch will be closed during every Friday beginning March 20 until further notice.