The CNMI Office of Grants Management has so far handed out 517 applications for the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program and has received 15 applications back as of Feb. 18.
According to a chart that OGM posted in its Facebook page, 160 applications were distributed on Feb. 16 and one was received and completed. The next day, on Feb. 17, 357 forms were distributed, and 14 were completed and received.
In an interview with OGM administrator Epiphanio Cabrera Jr., he said that once OGM receives all applications, they will do a pre-eligibility screening process for two weeks. This means that OGM will go through each application to see if the individual is eligible to receive rental assistance. The OGM will then conduct face-to-face interviews with those who are found eligible.
As of right now, the pre-eligibility process is only for residents who are U.S. citizens or qualified aliens. Cabrera said that they are awaiting clarifications whether the program also applies to CNMI-Only Transitional Workers. As of now, foreign workers (called CW workers) and Compact of Free Association (FSM, Palau, Marshall Islands) citizens, unless dual citizen, are not eligible.
Cabrera said that OGM is still looking at the guidance for those who are CW but have children who are a U.S. citizens who are 18 years or older, if they can apply.
Cabrera assures a smooth process for the funding.
The CNMI was awarded $10,400,669 for rental assistance and utility relief through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program under the recently enacted Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
Eligible households may receive up to 12 months of rental assistance plus an additional three months, depending on the household’s circumstances.
Payments to existing household-related arrears as far back as March 13, 2020, will be prioritized before consideration of any future rent payments.