Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said Friday that, by late next week, his administration will hopefully have a structured spending proposal for the estimated $515 million that’s allocated to the CNMI under the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.
Speaking at a radio news briefing, Torres disclosed that they are in the process of making sure that the Cabinet and other entities as well as branches will benefit from ARPA. The governor said there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in order for each agency to avail of the ARPA funds. He said they will be having a Cabinet meeting this week to go down the subtitles and the subsections of the ARPA.
Torres said Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig has been working extremely hard in making sure they are going to address the CNMI’s deficits, land compensations, and all other government billings.
“I want to address those first and foremost when the ARPA [funding] comes in,” he said. “Hopefully by late next week we’ll be able to start sending that proposal. We wanted to make sure that what we propose is within our guidelines and that’s the biggest part.”
Torres said they can always go back and amend the plan later. “But our plan is to get as accurate as we can, but address the deficit first and foremost,” he said.
Torres said they have already addressed the issue of furloughed employees by bringing them back. He said they have also brought all government employees up to 80 work hours. The governor said there is also an opportunity to continue to maintain the retirees’ pension at 100%.
Torres said when the Legislature gave him 100% reprogramming authority, that gave him the opportunity and the ability to continue to fund all retirees’ pensions at 100%. “I plan to maintain that 100% as long as I’m here,” said Torres.
He said the 80 hours for government employees will cover the next two to three years.
“All of these is a plan that we are executing the right way,” the governor said.