The Northern Marianas Housing Corp. is currently working on the Community Block Development Grant program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will focus on disaster recovery that come from a presidentially declared disaster area.
The administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has made NMHC the lead agency for this program, so this means that everything that NMHC has done for the CBDG-DR program will be approved by the administration.
Since the CBDG-DR is a HUD grant, the main focus will be for housing, which will allow damaged properties to “get up to speed.” Furthermore, the HUD program will prioritize low and moderate income, then elimination of slums or blight, and then urgent need.
“It is a housing program at heart so it focuses on the low and moderate income persons,” said Jeff Deleon Guerrero, NMHC’s CDBG-DR finance manager, during yesterday’s Saipan Chamber of Commerce monthly membership meeting where he served as guest speaker. “It’s also getting infrastructure back up to speed.”
The Chamber meeting was held online.
This grant will focus on what damage were done by the double whammy of Super Typhoon Yutu and Typhoon Mangkhut that hit in September 2018 and October 2018. This includes damaged properties, storm-damaged infrastructure, and helping people renovate their damaged homes to get back into it.
“I think it’s very important to highlight that it can be used as a match for FEMA projects, and there are a lot out there. There’s a big portion of this grant that will cover the FEMA match portion, which is always the best use of money. You pay 10% for somebody else to cover 90% of the funds,” said Deleon Guerrero.
The grant does have a 20% portion that’s allocated to planning and administration, Deleon Guerrero said. The administration of the grant is maximized at 5% and then planning can be anywhere between 15% or less, which will be up to the grantee.
“It truly is, in a sense, a disaster recovery grant, in the sense that anything that we spend, the money on goes back to the disaster, no matter what we use. Every single dollar has to have an explanation of how it was related to either Super Typhoon Yutu or Typhoon Mangkhut,” he said.
According to Deleon Guerrero, they have been preparing the applications and procedures, as well as an action plan, for a year now. Furthermore, this program is a ‘last resort,’ fund. “I want you…to keep in mind that this program is what I call the last resort. Keep that in the back of your mind because the only way these funds can be used is after Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, Small Business Administration funds, your insurance plans, and anything that has to help with the costs, are done first,” he said.
In relation to the explanation of where the funds go, NMHC will have to document everything with a system called the disaster recovery grant reporting system. Deleon Guerrero says that it will be a way for both parties to communicate, with HUD making sure that NMHC is compliant.