ON LOCAL MATCH FOR COVID-19-RELATED GRANTS
Torres optimistic Biden administration will reconsider
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said Friday that the CNMI government is going appeal to the administration of President Joseph Biden Jr. to reconsider the denial of the Commonwealth’s request for a waiver on the local match required for COVID-19-related grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Speaking at a radio news briefing last Friday, Torres expressed optimism that FEMA under the new Biden administration will reconsider the CNMI government’s appeal because they are fully aware of what is happening in the CNMI.
The governor said he just spoke with governor’s authorized representative Patrick Guerrero Thursday about appealing acting FEMA administrator Robert Fenton’s Jan. 15 denial letter.
In that letter, Fenton told Torres that his request for a waiver on the local match “is not warranted.”
Fenton, who is an appointee of former president Donald J. Trump. said that, based on their review of all of the information available, it was determined that the increased level of funding that Torres has requested is not warranted.
“Therefore, I must inform you that your request for a cost share adjustment for this major disaster declaration is denied,” said Fenton.
Torres said the CNMI has a very good working relationship with Fenton and that he is optimistic that with the Commonwealth’s success rate in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the CNMI is putting a very good justification on the appeal that should be going out soon.
“We need to do what we need to do. We understand their process…but we’re here to highlight our success and our challenges as well,” Torres pointed out.
The governor said Fenton was previously the administrator for FEMA’s Region IX so he knows exactly what the CNMI has been going through.
Torres said Fenton had been in the CNMI a few times and that they’ve dealt with him.
He said Fenton has an excellent team that does continue to help the CNMI on the ground.
The governor pointed out that as the CNMI has been trying to fix and recover from Super Typhoon Yutu’s devastation, then now this pandemic.
“So they know exactly our situations here. I’m optimistic that, once we send in again our letter of appeal, that will be taken into consideration,” he said.
If the CNMI’s appeal is denied, Torres said he does not know yet the exact amount as to how much the CNMI would need to match. He, however, believes that in the first 60 or 90 days of a disaster declaration, the CNMI is covered 90%-10% local match and then certain cost is 75%-25% local match.
“I don’t have the exact number of the amount now. But we might be able to get that later on,” the governor said.