WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Commonwealth government’s request for a waiver on the local match required for COVID-19-related grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been denied.
In a letter to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres dated Jan. 15, 2021, Robert Fenton, who is currently performing the duties of the FEMA administrator, said the governor’s request “is not warranted.”
“Based on our review of all of the information available, it has been determined that the increased level of funding you have requested is not warranted. Therefore, I must inform you that your request for a cost share adjustment for this major disaster declaration is denied,” wrote Fenton, who was previously the administrator for FEMA’s Region IX and has been directly involved with the Commonwealth’s recovery from the 2018 typhoons, as well as the coronavirus.
According to a press statement from the Office of Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), Torres made his request in March of last year, but the Trump administration “waited until the last minute to refuse.”
If it chooses to do so, the Commonwealth does have 30 days in which to appeal the decision to the incoming Biden administration. It was not immediately clear if the Torres-Palacios administration will appeal.
In his March 2020 letter asking for local cost share waiver, Torres said, “the additional burden of paying the non-federal shared cost when current locally-expended resources in response to COVID-19 have already exceeded the CNMI’s available operating capital will result in curtailment of critical public services.”
The governor specifically mentioned the possibility of defunding the police, and cutting funding for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the hospital, the Judiciary and Legislature, and curtailing payment to for utility services to government facilities without help from the Trump administration. (Saipan Tribune)