Rep. Joseph Lee Pan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan) has introduced a joint resolution to authorize the Marianas Public Land Trust to receive and administer $15 million as a sub-recipient of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Guerrero pre-filed the House joint resolution, which means he will formally introduce it before the House of Representatives session begins tomorrow, Wednesday.
The lawmaker stated in the resolution that the Commonwealth finds itself today in even more challenging economic times, with the COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated the tourism-based economy with the cessation of air travel; reduction of business activity on the islands; reduced interisland travel; and impact on transportation.
He said following the discussions with the Office of the Governor and Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig, the MPLT trustees are inclined to participate with economic recovery as a sub-grant recipient of $15 million in ARPA funds to address the negative impact of COVID-19.
He said the purpose of the sub-grant is for MPLT to use its experience with investments to administer and manage ARPA funds consistent with the CNMI and U.S. Department of Treasury requirements and guidelines under parallel investment or lending standards.
Guerrero said as with prior loans or investments, the MPLT trustees are counseled that authorizing legislation is appropriate for the ARPA-MPLT Sub-Grant of $15 million for MPLT to administer for the CNMI government through the Finance Secretary/Office of the Governor.
He said the trustees have determined that MPLT can assist and be a sub-recipient of the ARPA program without affecting their primary duties and responsibilities in carrying out their fiduciary duties as trustees in their investment decisions.
ARPA became law on March 11, 2021 as U.S. Public Law 117-2. It provides $350 billion to help states, counties, cities, and tribal governments cover increased expenditures, replenish lost revenue and mitigate economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guerrero said ARPA created the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to assist the states with relatively flexible funding to assist states and territories in the identified areas, including tourism and transportation for the purposes of economic recovery.
In the CNMI, the Office of the Governor, through the Department Finance, is charged with the administration of ARPA CSLFRF funds for the required purposes and are distributed in the form of grants or sub-grants to eligible entities and non-governmental organizations to fund programs where most urgently needed in the Commonwealth.
The lawmaker said the U.S. Department of Treasury has promulgated its interim rule outlining the specifics on the use of the ARPA funds, which establish the boundaries or guardrails required by statute, which include qualifying expenses.
He said those boundaries include the use of funds to respond to or address the COVID-19 as public health emergency or its negative impacts, including assistance, to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality.