Gov. Ralph DLG Torres allocated the entirety of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund received from the CARES Act to the Northern Marianas College to help pay employee salaries.
Torres, backed by Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, awarded the entire $4.78 million they received from the Education Stabilization fund under the CARES Act to NMC on Tuesday.
According to Torres, NMC deserves the funding for its leadership, support for the administration, and because of all the challenges it has faced as an institution.
“I believe in their leadership, and I believe that the $4.7 million is going to go a long way, with all the challenges that NMC has gone through and all the support they have given to the administration. …I got swabbed a couple of times and the comfort of being swabbed by NMC graduates from its Nursing Program is a comfort for me and you just look at the programs itself, the leadership, the $4.7 million is well deserved,” he said.
Palacios echoed Torres, adding that the administration wishes they could give more. “But we’ll do what we can to give you what you…deserve,” Palacios said.
According to NMC interim president Frankie Eliptico, the $4.7 million would go to salaries as well as its many educational programs. “The funding is really going to help us continue the college’s mission of workforce development, academic training, and building capacity for the CNMI. The funding from the governor allows us to pay some salary expenses to avoid any severe austerity measures and allow the college to continue its programs throughout the summer and especially the fall,” he said.
“Our enrollment is very strong right now and we have a lot of students who are here and came from the states because their colleges were closed so we want to make sure that they have a college here for them to go to in the new semester and this funding helps us do that,” Eliptico added.
Torres said he and Palacios decided to allocate the GEER Fund to NMC because the Public School System was given its own $23 million-plus under the Education Stabilization Fund, significantly more than what was allocated to NMC.
“This here is funding that the governor and the lieutenant governor have the discretion and so we’re taking the full $4.7 million and putting it toward NMC,” Torres explained.
Eliptico said that NMC already received $1.8 million from the CARES Act; that money was divided into two parts: student aid and to assist NMC in transitioning into online education.
“Over $900,000 was given to us as a past-through for the students. We needed to provide that in direct student aid. Over $700,000 was distributed to students in the spring semester. The remaining $180,000-plus will be distributed according to need. So, for example, we’re going to determine some of our students who may have lost their jobs, we’re looking to see if they’re supporting families, we’re looking to see what other hardships they have to make that determination of need. The remaining, or the other half of the $1.8 million, was restricted to online migration of our classes,” he said.