U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs director Nik Pula recently met with Gov. Ralph Torres in the CNMI where they discussed challenges in disaster recovery efforts, Medicaid funding shortfalls, and labor issues affecting the commonwealth. Pula also presented more than $2.4 million in grants, bringing the total OIA grant funding support for the CNMI in fiscal year 2019 to about $14.4 million.
While on Saipan, Pula will also meet with the CNMI secretaries of Commerce and Labor, the acting governor’s authorized representative who is the local administrator of federal disaster assistance programs, and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials. In addition, Pula will also visit the Capital Improvement Program office and the Commonwealth Health Care Corp.
The CNMI has suffered a nearly 50-percent loss in tourism revenue as a result of Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit the territory in October 2018. The related and ongoing impacts have recently prompted Torres to implement austerity measures for government workers and the CNMI Board of Education to declare a state of fiscal emergency in the Public School System.
“Assistant [Interior] Secretary [Douglas] Domenech and I will continue to support the CNMI as much as possible through grant funding and working with our federal partners. We are also pleased to see the recently approved 2019 Disaster Relief Act that provides additional support for the CNMI and others at this critical time,” said Pula.
While in the territory, Pula also traveled to Tinian for the commemoration ceremony of the 75th Anniversary of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian. Also present at the ceremony were Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan; Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, commander, Joint Region Marianas; and Lt. Gen. Lewis Craparotta, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
The 75th Anniversary ceremony was a tribute to a significant turning point in World War II in the Pacific Theater. Unlike D-Day in Europe, the Battles of Saipan and Tinian, which led to the surrender of Japan and the end of the war in the Pacific, are little known elsewhere in the world.
“This important chapter in our history reminds us of those values and that our fellow citizens made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect,” said Pula.
In Washington, D.C., Domenech also participated in a commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Saipan—or “D-Day Pacific”—at the World War II Memorial. The full video of the commemoration in Washington, D.C. is available at https://vimeo.com/342519724.
The 2019 funding support from the Office of Insular Affairs for the CNMI combines Technical Assistance Program, Maintenance Assistance Program, Capital Improvement Projec, and Compact Impact funds. The CNMI is also scheduled to receive important and critical assistance from the 2019 Disaster Relief Act signed into law on June 6 by President Donald Trump.
A total of $1,910,249 in fiscal year 2019 TAP funding was provided as follows:
• Office of the Governor—$1,500,000 is provided for the Governor’s Office to help meet unbudgeted operational needs, inclusive of utilities, telecommunications, supplies and informational technology costs that were incurred as a result of Super Typhoon Yutu.
• Commonwealth Health Care Corp.—$195,253 to procure new monitors for the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital on Saipan. The 20-year-old monitors currently in use are obsolete and have been identified as in “immediate jeopardy” by the Centers for Medicare Services.
• CHC will also receive $30,000 for workforce development and training of registered nurses who are interested in becoming specialty certified nurses through a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader certification course. Certified areas include acute and critical care, neonatal, emergency room, and perioperative nursing. Funds will cover the cost for licensure applications, exam registration, and review guides.
• Department of Finance and Office Grant Management—$184,996 will be used to acquire the hardware and software necessary for a CNMI Fixed Asset Inventory and Reconciliation System and additional staff to help perform inventories across the more than fifty agencies in the CNMI government. The Division of Procurement and Supply has repeatedly been cited in the CNMI Single Audit, and has had difficulty achieving its mission of conducting timely, annual inventories as well as obtaining a clean audit.
A total of $499,630 in fiscal year 2019 MAP funding was provided as follows:
• Rota municipal government—$220,605 to procure a hydraulic shipyard pedestal crane for Rota. The crane will be used at the Rota Seaport Terminal to offload critical food and cargo supplies, replacing the port’s broken and discontinued boom crane truck.
• Department of Public Works—$279,025 to purchase a tire shredder, which would allow the DPW to recycle and repurpose rubber tires for other projects, such as road resurfacing.
A total of $9,665,000 in fiscal year 2019 CIP funding was also awarded to the CNMI earlier this year. Although most of the 2019 CIP funding will be used as the local cost share for FEMA projects, other projects have also been funded, as listed below.
• $7,425,896 will be used as local cost share for FEMA projects on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Super Typhoon Yutu hazard mitigation projects.
• $1 million to be used for repair to classrooms damaged by Yutu. This funding was originally made available to purchase temporary classrooms but then redirected to be used for building repair since FEMA funding was made available for temporary classrooms.
• $431,604 to support the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s acquisition of a Granular Activated Carbon Treatment System for the Isley Booster station and four other wells on Saipan. The wells provide water to the homes of thousands of people in several villages and to the Airport Rescue and Fighting facility on Saipan. The primary funding for this project is to be provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration.
• $706,000 will be used to support the administrative costs of the CIP implementing agency under the Office of the Governor. This agency implements CIP projects from inception to completion independent of the Department of Public Works.
• $101,500 will be used to provide repairs and maintenance on federal and locally-funded projects in the CNMI.
Compact Impact funding for FY 2019 in the amount of $2,261,330, was previously announced and awarded to the CNMI.
More information on the funding provided by the Office of Insular Affairs is available on the OIA website. (PR)