$14M more for Marianas food aid
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The cash-strapped Commonwealth government would receive over $1 billion under terms of a new coronavirus relief bill released last night. Democrats plan to pass the bill in the House this week. The bill also sets aside $14 million specifically for food aid in the Marianas.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said he has been working for the extra food aid ever since Gov. Ralph DLG Torres notified him on Aug. 26 of an $11,527,811 shortfall in the Marianas Nutrition Assistance Program.
“We are giving the governor more than he asked for,” Sablan said. “I spoke with [House] Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday about the need for more food aid. She agreed to increase what was in the HEROES Act we passed in May—before the governor reported a shortfall—from $1.822 million for the Marianas to the $14 million I asked for.”
In general, the new relief act reduces funding from amounts in the May HEROES Act, but Pelosi made an exception in the case of Sablan.
“I am very grateful to the Speaker for listening to my plea on behalf of the thousands of families in the Marianas, whose food aid the governor has threatened to cut,” Sablan said. “I again ask the governor to wait to take such drastic action that will hurt so many people, until we see whether Senate Republicans and the President agree to more relief funding.”
Sablan also said he continues to stand by Pelosi’s decision not to cave in to Republicans and the President, who have refused to provide any money to the Commonwealth and other state and territorial governments facing bankruptcy because of the coronavirus.
“The governor thinks it would be smart to accept Senate Republicans and the White House offer of no money,” Sablan said. “I think it is better for the people of the Commonwealth to hold out for the $1 billion that Democrats have allocated for our islands.”
In addition, the Democrats’ new relief bill has $14 million for the municipalities of Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands, $39 million for Marianas schools, and $8.9 million to help renters and homeowners on the islands. The monies are distributed nationwide based on population.
Another $1,200 impact payment; Unemployment extended; More PPP
Three other important federal lifelines are also continued in the Democrats’ new bill. Taxpayers will receive another $1,200 impact payment with an additional $500 per child.
And those who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus will see their Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment of $600 per week extended through January 2021.
Democrats also responded to Sablan’s request that unemployed CW workers be eligible for both the $600 per week FPUC and the $345 per week Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that he added the Marianas to in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in March.
“Congress intended PUA and FPUC to cover all workers,” Sablan said. “But the Trump administration decided to cut out foreign workers in the Marianas. Section 702 of our new bill now makes it clear that CW workers will get unemployment assistance just like everyone else. That will help them and pump even more money into the Marianas economy, when we desperately need it.”
Lastly, businesses and non-profits will again have access to Payroll Protection Program loans with special targeted assistance for restaurants and independent live venue operators. In the Marianas, 482 PPP loans were approved before the program ended. The forgivable loans were worth $38.7 million. (PR)