The CNMI and Guam are guaranteed to receive more federal money after the House passed Monday (Tuesday in the Marianas) a $19-billion federal aid bill that aims to help U.S. states and territories recover from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, storms, typhoons, and wildfires.
The House voted 354-58 to pass H.R. 268; it already passed the Senate, 85-8, last May 23. The bill now heads to President Donald J. Trump for his signature and can become a law via auto-pen while he’s in the United Kingdom for a three-day state visit.
If it becomes law, H.R. 268 would give the CNMI an additional $129.6 million in disaster relief funds that will be made available through Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Recovery Grants, and other federal grants.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres credited this to the collaboration between his administration and the office of Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP).
“It covers additional requests for federal assistance that our office has worked with [Sablan’s] office since the typhoon. We look forward to using this funding to rebuild our homes and our lives, as well as build a stronger Marianas,” Torres said.
Saipan and Tinian were hit hardest by Super Typhoon Yutu—a Category 5-equivalent storm—in October last year; Typhoon Mangkhut struck Rota almost a month before Yutu.
Sablan said H.R. 268 is the culmination of months of work to make sure the CNMI would have the resources to rebuild. “My very first votes in this Congress were for my two amendments to the disaster aid bill, making $36 million available for the Marianas Medicaid program and $25.2 million available for food aid.”
“And behind-the-scenes negotiations produced another $56 million for solid waste facilities and $10.4 million for sewer and water infrastructure. Together with $2 million to help the Commonwealth with managing all this money, that is a total of $129.6 million, just for the [Commonwealth].”
At least $50 million is expected from the CDBG-DR, on top of the $100 million already allocated to the CNMI from legislation that was passed last year.
The $19.1-billion disaster aid bill increased Guam’s federal medical assistance percentage to 100 percent, a move that Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero welcomed.
“There was a delay in the approval of this measure providing our territories and states with much-needed relief. Nonetheless, I am glad that it has overcome the latest hurdle and I am optimistic that President Trump will honor his word that he will sign the bill into law,” said Leon Guerrero. “Our administration has been seeking congressional support of our Medicaid funding issues. We have sent letters, testified before Congress, and met with numerous federal officials and agencies. We will continue to fight for equitable and fair treatment of Guam and the other U.S. Territories on these and all other matters.”