Saipan-- The CNMI Governor's Task Force is proposing the resumption of tourism tentatively on July 15. This is among the highlights of the CNMI government's Community-Focused Economic Recovery Plan released by the task force Wednesday.
Tourism, the CNMI's main economic driver, is currently paralyzed by the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought world travel to a standstill.
"The Task Force understands that this is not a set date. Public health recommendations by the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation will continue to lead this gradual reopening of the CNMI economy moving forward," according to the Office of the CNMI Governor.
The CNMI's new policy outlines a phased approach to reopening economic activities in the CNMI. The policy includes guidance to protect businesses and customers, and ensuring compliance with public health directives intended to safeguard all CNMI residents.
"This policy was drafted through the efforts of the Governor's Covid-19 Economic Task Force, which consists of members of government agencies, Marianas Visitors Authority, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, and business leaders from around the Marianas," the governor's office said.
"The Governor's Covid-19 Task Force values the collaboration and partnership of all business partners, media partners, and the whole community for adhering to the Governor's public health and social distancing directives, as well as preventative measures meant to safeguard the residents of the Marianas. "
Moving forward, the governor's office said additional information on the economic recovery plan will be released later.
Earlier this week, the Department of Finance announced its first distribution of 27,020 stimulus checks, amounting to $42.76 million.
Also known as "economic impact payments," the stimulus program is a component of the federal CARES Act that provides relief to Americans during the pandemic crisis.
The department said the CNMI Treasury has printed 22,306 checks to be mailed, with 813 to Rota ($1,300,862), 715 to Tinian ($1,173,889) and 20,778 to Saipan ($32,129,474). Eligibility was determined based on 2018 or 2019 tax returns. The first batch included all eligible recipients processed without error as of May 12
"Additionally, with the success of the online Stimulus Portal, DOF was able to submit 4,714 ACH direct deposits for taxpayers who submitted valid bank information," the department said.
It added that the portal will reopen within the week for those who were not processed in the first batch and who would like to submit their information. A public announcement will be made regarding the reopening of the Stimulus Portal. It will be closed 48 hours prior to the next batch upload. More details on this will be provided later this week.
"Due to the high volume of applications for direct deposit, Finance had to shut down the Stimulus Portal earlier than anticipated, but taxpayers should not be alarmed or worried. The portal will reopen up for direct deposit. If you choose not to do direct deposit, you will receive a paper check in the mail,” said Secretary of Finance David DLG. Atalig.
Future disbursements will be processed on a weekly basis with expected disbursements on Fridays, beginning on May 22, te department said.
The Division of Revenue & Taxation is entering all tax returns as they are received, so that these taxpayers will be included in the subsequent stimulus check releases.
According to DRT Director Tracy B. Norita, eligible recipients are advised to allow for two weeks for the DRT to process the additional round of stimulus checks, as well as delivery of mail by the US Postal Service for those that do not choose direct deposit. A request will be made to the IRS for additional funds. Funds will be transferred upon approval by US Treasury.
Norita also provided clarification regarding Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients.
“The U.S. Treasury had made the final decision for all US territories to issue stimulus checks through the local tax office. In discussions with the IRS, we shared our concerns for our most vulnerable citizens and insisted they reconsider, but with no success," Norita said.
"In order to get these checks out to our people in the shortest amount of time, we had to concede and accept the terms of the proposed implementation plan. Therefore, Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients must file their 2019 income tax to avail of the stimulus.”