After over four months of waiting, CNMI government retirees can expect to receive their bonuses as early as this Friday, May 6, according to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
In a brief comment from Torres during a media briefing last Friday, he said he has been in communication with Finance Secretary David Atalig, who has informed him that retiree bonuses should be released no later than this Friday.
“We are pushing hard. The secretary of Finance has been in communication with the CNMI Settlement Fund, and we are hoping to have that out no later than…Friday,” Torres said.
The announcement came just one day after Torres officially signed House Bill 22-95 Senate Substitute 1, into law. The bill reprograms $2.6 million from government personnel lapse funding to subsidize a retiree bonus of $1,000 for each CNMI government retiree.
Last Wednesday, H.B 22-95 Senate Substitute 1 gained a unanimous vote in favor of its passing, with 16 members of the House of Representatives voting “yes” and one abstention.
The most important amendment made to the bill that gained the support of the entire House of Representatives was the re-appropriation of funding from general fund personnel lapses instead of reprogramming funds from the Marianas Visitors Authority, Department of Finance, and the Office of the Governor.
Other amendments include the distribution of the retirement bonuses, and who holds the expenditure authority.
The Senate earlier passed the House bill with amendments back in April 18, with a unanimous 9-0 “yes” vote.
In an interview with Sen. Vinnie Sablan (R-Saipan), who led the amendment of the bill, he said the amendments were the product of the collaboration among his office, Atalig, and Senate finance specialist Dave Demapan.
He explained that the process of identifying an alternate source of funding was a tedious one and took several days to complete. However, now that it has been done, he hopes it’s something the House and the Senate can agree on.
In a short statement from H.B. 22-95 author Rep. Donald Manglona (Ind-Rota), he said he is grateful that a resolution was finally reached after over four months.
“I’m very grateful to the Senate for looking at the appropriations we’ve made, the allocations we’ve made, and their inputs as to where funds should be allocated from,” he said.
Manglona added that the bill is a product of both the House and the Senate.
“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy that this is a product that both the House and the Senate agreed upon and came to a consensus on. We thank the retirees for their patience. I know, it’s been mentioned since December but it’s all a matter of ensuring that the transparency and accountability [are] there and ensuring that local funds are taken out from the right account in order to address the retiree bonuses,” Manglona said.