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  • By Pacific island Times News Staff

Disaster relief bill signed into law

New law includes critical disaster and Medicaid support for the US territories

White House

Washington –President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday signed H.R. 2157 that will provides significant disaster and emergency support directly to the territories affected by natural calamities.

The bill titled “Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019” is now U.S. Public Law 116-20.

“I applaud the President for his support of the territories,” said Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech. “All of the territories are in desperate need of this disaster assistance and the additional Medicaid funding.”

Under the new law, the CNMI is eligible for $25.2 million for disaster nutrition assistance through Sept. 30, 2020, to help address needs in response to the presidentially declared major disasters and emergencies, including needs following typhoon Yutu.

American Samoa is eligible to receive an additional $18 million in disaster nutrition assistance as made available under Section 18 of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.

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More disaster assistance is available through several federal agencies as listed below:

  • The Office of Insular Affairs will receive will receive $2 million in supplemental funding to be used for financial management technical assistance related to the impacts of Typhoon Yutu in the CNMI.

  • The National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund will receive $50 million to fund the repair of historic sites and properties in areas across the nation that received a major disaster declaration, for which the CNMI will be eligible due to Typhoon Yutu.

  • The Department of Justice Federal Prison System will receive $28.4 million for buildings and facilities related to the consequences of Hurricanes Florence and Michael, including Typhoon Yutu.

  • Federal offices and agencies, such as the Economic Development Administration, the Veterans Health Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, and the Government Accountability Office, have also received funding to support additional disaster assistance across the nation, and for which the territories are also eligible.

The Disaster Relief Act of 2019 also includes critical assistance for Medicaid funding related to health services in the territories.

The federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) rate is to be increased to 100 percent for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2019 and ending Sept. 30, 2019, for American Samoa, Guam, the CNMI and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The FMAP rate in the territories is otherwise statutorily set at 55 percent. This support essentially provides a waiver of the local matching requirement through the remainder of fiscal 2019, beginning in January.

In connection with this support, the law requires each territory to submit a plan to the federal government by Sept. 30, outlining the steps they shall take to collect and report reliable data to the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System.

The CNMI will also receive an additional $36 million in Medicaid funds, also referred to as the Section 1108 allotment of the Social Security Act. This is the maximum amount of funding the CNMI may receive from the federal government in Medicaid allotments through the remainder of FY 2019. The FMAP match waiver is also applicable to this funding through the remainder of FY 2019


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