The CNMI will be getting additional federal money that will be used for the islands’ recovery efforts in the wake of the destruction of Super Typhoon Yutu.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, who is currently in Washington, D.C., announced yesterday the infusion of more federal dollars to the Commonwealth after being informed about it by the White House.
Torres is in the nation’s capital to attend the National Governor’s Association winter meeting and will also begin consultations for the Section 902 Talks; he first met with Federal Emergency Management Agency deputy administrator Peter T. Gaynor last week.
He is also scheduled to meet with other federal officials to discuss the CNMI’s immigration and labor problems, and will be testifying in separate committee hearings in the U.S. Congress—House and Senate.
“Lt. Gov. [Arnold I.] Palacios and I have just been informed that President [Donald J.] Trump has approved our request for additional disaster assistance funding for relief and recovery assistance for the CNMI as a result of the impacts of Super Typhoon Yutu,” said Torres.
“[Trump on Monday] ordered that all federal funds for all categories of public assistance, hazard mitigation, and the other needs assistance are authorized at 90 percent of total eligible costs and federal funds for debris removal and emergency protective measures are authorized at 100 percent for 180 days from the start of the incident.”
Super Typhoon Yutu devastated the islands of Saipan (southern part) and Tinian, more than a month after Typhoon Mangkhut hit the southernmost island of Rota. Saipan is still recovering from the devastation of Typhoon Soudelor that hit almost four years ago.
Acting governor Arnold I. Palacios said the increased federal funds would help stabilize the CNMI’s finances after the economy took a hit in the last quarter of 2018. “This means more federal assistance for disaster relief, increased technical assistance, additional infrastructure resiliency, and additional financial help for qualified residents.”
“Over the course of the last few months, we have made great progress in strengthening our utilities and critical infrastructure, while also providing relief goods to residents. Our next steps include our permanent housing mission, which will build new and stronger homes for qualified residents, and reenergizing our economy with our private sector and tourism partners,” added Palacios.
Virginia Villagomez, Torres’ authorized representative, said the quick recovery of the islands is in part due to the partnership between the CNMI and other federal agencies like FEMA. “Also, for the approval of our request for additional federal assistance.”
“Under Gov. Torres and Lt. Gov. Palacios, we are on the right track at not only building new homes and stronger infrastructure, but we are also on our way toward stabilizing our government finances.”
The White House, in a statement, said Trump signed an amended disaster declaration for the CNM so additional assistance could be made available to the Commonwealth. The amended declaration authorized an increase in federal aid for relief and recovery efforts.
“Under the president’s major disaster declaration issued for the CNMI on Oct. 26, 2018, federal funding was made available for public assistance, hazard mitigation, and other needs assistance at 75 percent federal funding of total eligible costs,” the White House said.
“For a period of 30 days, assistance for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, was authorized at 100 percent of the total eligible costs.”
Press secretary Kevin Bautista said all federal aid—public assistance, hazard mitigation, and other needs assistance—will have a 90-10 cost share.
The White House statement added: “All are authorized at 90 percent of total eligible costs and federal funds for debris removal and emergency protective measures are authorized at 100 percent for 180 days from the start of the incident.”
The Torres administration welcomed the White House’s decision. “I want to thank our President, the White House, the [Federal Emergency Management Agency], our federal partners, the CNMI Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and our first responders at the Joint Field Office who helped us with this request as we continue to manage this recovery.”
“Our islands took a major hit economically and financially, so this additional federal assistance will go a long way in building a more resilient community and a stronger foundation as we rebuild our economy and infrastructure,” added Torres.