The Public School System returned to the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. last Friday a total of $96,375.30 in Community Development Block Grant funding that was originally intended for three PSS projects that didn’t push through or lacked proper documentation.
Acting PSS Finance and Budget director Kimo Rosario turned over a check worth over $96,000 during last Friday’s NMHC board meeting where he also serves as chairman. The monies represent NMHC funding that PSS got for at least three school projects that never took off: the Marianas High School collateral equipment, a proposed swimming pool at the Saipan Southern High School, and the library extension of Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School.
“PSS, with the blessing of the Board of Education, approved the return of this sum. I’m sorry it took this long,” Rosario said, adding that newly appointed Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada wanted to present the check himself but had another appointment.
NMHC corporate director Jesse Palacios was more than happy to receive the check from PSS. He said the funding would be used as seed money for the $244 million CBDG-Disaster Recovery money that NMHC will soon be receiving from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The new money is intended to help the CNMI rebuild in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu.
“[The grant funding requires NMHC] to come up with a project plan and hire personnel to work on the policies and procedures and the CBDG-DR money doesn’t have an initial funding for us to prepare all these things,” Palacios said.
He said the money remitted by PSS will help NMHC hire a consultant “to put the action plan together.”
“Any money received will definitely help us out. We’re [going to] use our own money but it isn’t enough. The budget for a whole year is at least $1.5 million. So, it’s a start,” he added.
The return of the money means PSS is now eligible to apply for a share of the close to $244-million CDBG-DR funding. When asked about this, Palacios was noncommittal but optimistic that PSS would eventually be allowed to participate in the program once again.
“This is the first step in the process. We can certainly entertain any PSS project applications. We will inform [U.S. Housing and Urban Development] about this that they kind of owned up on what happened in the past so they want to rectify that and move forward,” the NMHC corporate director added.
At the end of the day, Palacios said NMHC will work with PSS for the benefit of the CNMI’s students.
“It’s more for the students to benefit from future CBDG projects. We’ll definitely keep PSS in mind when money from future CBDG projects, not only the CBDG-DR, comes in,” he added.
Rosario earlier said that if PSS does become eligible anew, the CDBG-DR program funding will only cover a portion of the costs of repair.
“For example, if the Hopwood [Middle School] repairs cost $24 million, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency covers $10 million, the CDBG-DR funding will cover the remaining $14 million,” he said during the Board of Education special meeting earlier this month.
PSS is slated to receive over $700,000 worth of reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said that getting the CDBG-DR funding will boost the process of getting PSS back up and running.
The over $243 million grant will be used for CNMI recovery efforts from Super Typhoon Yutu, which hit Saipan and Tinian in October 2018.