CNMI Washington Office director Jason Osborne said the Commonwealth needs relief from some labor requirements in the next stimulus package since the money cannot be spent without available workers.
Osborne, who was patched-through the governor’s radio news briefing last Friday, said that his focus isn’t necessarily in terms of how much second stimulus money is going to come in, but more of the kind of language the CNMI will get relief for.
“The reality is, in many cases some of the money that’s going out is to create jobs in the states in terms of infrastructure development,” he said.
As an example, he pointed out that there’s money going out for housing, which the CNMI just got through a Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery action plan amounting to $244 million.
“But it really is kind of, can we get some language in there that provides relief on some of the labor requirements [required] under the Workforce Act as well as the touchback provision, as well as potentially an extension of the CW [program] beyond the current number, or at least some relief on the scale down aspects of it,” Osborne said.
In the long term, he said, that’s what the business community in the CNMI needs—some sort of assurances that the Commonwealth is going to get back tourism and expand its business sector.
He said that, within the next stimulus bill, one thing that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has been specific about is that the CNMI needs relief on some of these regulations. “The money is great, and the money can be put to good use. But if we can’t spend it because we don’t have the workers, then it’s just sitting there and nothing’s done with it,” Osborne said.
The director said he and the Office of the Governor’s focus right now is to continue to work with the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, and the U.S. Department of Labor to try and get some more relief as best as they can on the CW issue, particularly the touchback provision.
Osborne said they did get an extension of that touchback provision due to the governor’s efforts. “We got somewhat of a waiver extending the provision until 2023, which saved us quite a bit and saved businesses quite a big headache,” he said.
He added that they are also trying to push out some more Economic Development Administration funding so they can get some more money into the CNMI.