‘Much-needed relief for NMI’

Kilili says Rescue Plan will keep CNMI healthy and economically sound

Yesterday’s passage of the landmark $1.9-trillion relief bill, the American Rescue Plan of 2021, in the U.S. Congress and its expected speedy approval by President Joseph R. Biden drew widespread praise and sighs of relief for CNMI officials who see the additional infusion of funds as a lifeline for the CNMI’s parched economy.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios said in a statement that its passage means the CNMI will receive much-needed relief for the government and its people, most notably through the stimulus check payments, funding for government operations, and additional funding for unemployment assistance.

In his remarks for the Congressional Record yesterday, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) reflected on how important the American Rescue Plan and the five previous pandemic relief bills have been to the people of the CNMI.

Biden is expected to sign the relief bill on Friday (Saturday CNMI time).

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio said the American Rescue Plan will not only provide direct relief to people and help jumpstart Guam’s economic recovery but will save millions of lives.

Separately, Torres and Palacios said in a statement that, while the CNMI remains among the safest places in the United States from COVID-19 because of proactive planning and collaboration, “it remains very clear that our economy has not recovered to appropriate levels in order to sustain our government.”
They said they look forward to seeing Biden sign the legislation on Saturday and that they will work with Sablan and federal partners on the implementation.

In a statement his office sent to media, Sablan said the rescue plan will keep the CNMI healthy and economically sound as the Commonwealth makes its way forward.

He said those who remain laid off will continue to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, as they have since the Congress passed the CARES Act last March.

Sablan said taxpayers will receive another economic impact payment, $1,400, and more dependent children and certain dependent adults will qualify for additional aid.

He said the K-12 schools, which have managed to reopen on a limited basis, will remain open because the Rescue Plan has $160 million to make sure teachers and staff can be paid. The Northern Marianas College and its students will also get the help needed to continue studies.

He said childcare providers, another critical small business, will get an assist to stay open, benefitting working parents who depend on these services.

He said working families will also see their Child Tax Credit increase. “And because we were able to amend the Rescue Plan to make Marianas’ taxpayers eligible for the advance monthly payment of CTC, just like Americans nationwide, island parents will be getting that money when it is most useful: to meet the immediate needs of growing children,” Sablan said.

The delegate said working families in the Marianas will also now, for the first time in 25 years, receive the Earned Income Tax Credit.

He said for those who still cannot work or whose incomes are insufficient, they have included $30 million to provide food assistance in the Marianas and funds for housing, so no one will lose the roof over their heads.

Sablan recognized the importance of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund included in the Rescue Plan. He said this money was kept out of the relief measure that they enacted in December, in part because of criticism this was a “blue state bailout.”

“Believe me, the Marianas is neither blue nor a state. We are simply a community of Americans, who have been crushed economically by this pandemic; and this fiscal aid to our state and municipal governments will fund police and other public servants employed, providing the services every community needs,” Sablan said.

The delegate said that without the help of the federal government and the support of fellow Americans, the people of the Marianas would have suffered terribly this last year.

“Instead, we remain healthy. Our children are in school. And we are ready to build back better, once this pandemic is finally behind us,” he added.

Guam’s Leon Guerrero and Tenorio said in their statement they will work with Delegate Michael San Nicolas (D-GU), federal partners, and government agencies to ensure an efficient rollout of the Rescue Plan.

“President Biden’s plan puts the needs of the people above all else—giving much needed relief to our front-liners and working people, accelerating our vaccine distribution program, and helping us to keep our schools open,” Leon Guerrero said.

She said since the announcement of the Rescue Plan, their administration has advocated for Guam’s inclusion in all programs as well as the ultimate passage of this bill.

“It’s been a difficult year for us all, but to the people of Guam, help is on the way,” the governor said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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