The Rota Legislative Delegation has sought the help of the Department of Finance for the release of the medical subsistence payments and interisland medical referral stipends of all patients living in the CNMI’s southernmost island.
In a letter to acting Finance secretary David Atalig, Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind.-Rota), the delegation’s chairman, said the funds are long overdue.
“The last medical subsistence [allowance] was paid out in December 2018 and the interisland medical referral stipend program was suspended last month. …It is now March and [Finance] has yet to release the January checks for our Rota patients,” said Manglona in the letter.
He said he is not unaware of the projected reduction in the estimated general fund resources for the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019, but pointed out that the money provided for the payment of the medical expenses for the terminally ill, and hemodialysis and medical referral patients are not part of the general fund. “These are funded by way of special appropriations from poker fees and gaming licenses.”
“I am…requesting your office to process these payments expeditiously,” Manglona said in the letter.
He said that more than $70,000 remains untouched in the appropriation’s funds balance that’s part of Rota Local Law 20-10 that. Finance, however, raised some technical concerns; the delegation tried to fix that with House Local Bill 21-7, D2, which was vetoed last week by then-acting governor Arnold I. Palacios.
H.L.B. 21-7, D2 would have appropriated $1,435,967 from the casino license fee that was allocated to Rota.
However, in his decision to veto the bill, Palacios said the money could not be appropriated again. “I have confirmed with the [DoF] that these funds have already been appropriated in previous legislations and therefore cannot be appropriated again.”
“If it is the intent of the delegation to re-appropriate these funds for the purposes stated in this bill, the delegation must clarify that these funds are being re-appropriated and that the previous appropriations have been suspended,” added Palacios.
Manglona, however, told Saipan Tribune that the supplemental funding should only be affected by the veto. “Even with the veto, this money is available and should be released to help with the essential medical needs and alleviate the daily struggles of our patients. The veto should only affect the supplemental funding.”
The delegation plans to hold a session by Wednesday next week to address this matter.