The House of Representatives unanimously approved Monday a resolution that strongly urges Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to approve a new $1,000 Commonwealth Utilities Corp. voucher to provide much needed financial relief to all qualified households in the CNMI.
In her House Resolution 22-20 that she pre-filed Wednesday last week and formally introduced Monday, Rep. Corina L. Magofna (Ind-Saipan) wants the $1,000 utilities voucher to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act money, in compliance with guidelines issued by the U.S. Treasury.
Magofna noted the significant increase of the fuel prices on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
After Magofna formally introduced the resolution, House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) referred it to the calendar for action that day.
When asked during a press briefing Friday if he will support the resolution, Torres appeared lukewarm to the idea, saying his administration does have something in place. Torres said he, Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig, and Commonwealth Utilities Corp. executive director Gary P. Camacho have been looking into how to assist CUC customers.
“It’s not simply, ‘Oh here’s $1,000 because so and so.’ We do look into the availability [of funds] and how is the best way to assist our CUC customers,” the governor said.
Rep. Joel Camacho (Ind-Saipan) thanked Magofna for introducing the resolution that, according to him, he highly supports. Camacho said he got a third message from a constituent in Precinct 4 about his/her power being disconnected for the third time.
“That’s really heartbreaking. I wish there [were] more we can do as legislators to help them in that respect. But right now, I think this is one way to address that issue,” Camacho said.
Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) said he supports the resolution, which he described as “a very good proposal.”
Magofna said the intent of the resolution was to offer some immediate relief to people.
Magofna said that, although Torres has publicly come out and said that he will be issuing a $500 local stimulus card, which could also be used to pay CUC bills, “I strongly feel that the stimulus can be used for food or other necessities, much needed necessities, and that this $1,000 voucher can definitely assist our people with regards to their CUC bills.”
Last December, the Torres administration provided residential households with a $500 utilities voucher credited to CUC ratepayer accounts.
The administration also allocated $25 million in ARPA funding for the second Local Economic Impact Payment that will give $500 to each eligible filer and dependent in the CNMI. The issuance of the second stimulus cards will start next week.