Public School System federal program manager Tim Thornburgh advised PSS to micromanage their expenditures and carefully manage the first tranche of the Education Stabilization Funds until the ratification of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solution kicks in.
Thornburgh said that this week will be crucial because even if the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools Act does pass (there’s an opportunity for President Donald J. Trump to negotiate with House of Representatives members to pass a bill), it’s highly unlikely because their main focus is the campaign trail, since it’s the election season. Additionally, if no negotiation in Washington, D.C. takes place this week, Thornburgh says that PSS will not see the second tranche of the Education Stabilization Funds until February 2021.
Though there might be some hiccups with the process of passing the bill this week, Thornburgh assures that they are still actively pursuing part two of the Education Stabilization Funds. During the special Board of Education meeting last Sept. 11, Thornburgh reported that $105 billion of the proposed HEROES Act will be allocated to part two of the Education Stabilization Funds.
PSS received a total of $23.2 million in Education Stabilization Funds the first time it was issued under the $27.9 million CARES Act Education Stabilization Funds intended for the CNMI. Part 2 refers to the Education Stabilization Funds outlined in the HEROES Act.
Although Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-Saipan) has assured Thornburgh that the HEROES Act will pass the U.S. Congress, it is still a question of when it will be passed and put in place. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act with $3 trillion to support health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill is now with the U.S. Senate, which notably failed to pass the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools or HEALS Act.
According to Thornburgh, PSS expects to get at least $40 million from either bill, which will be helpful since PSS is low on funds. Additionally, this will help PSS “bridge a gap” between reduced local funding and what they would need for the next two years.
As for the money that is meant for student competitions, Thornburgh said that, since there might not be any off island competitions due to the pandemic, they’re looking at the funds that haven’t been spent yet so that they can allocate it for something else.
Additionally, Thornburgh said that they’ve authorized their technology director to put out a second bid for 2,000 Mi-Fi, a device that allows one to connect to the internet. As of today, PSS has approximately 3,000 Mi-Fis but there’s a need for an extra 2,000, which will give PSS a total of 5,000.