The U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday announced the release of a $2.5 million in Covid-19 emergency response funding for the CNMI, and another $2.56 million in technical assistance grant for American Samoa.
The grant for the CNMI will be used for renovation and retrofitting of hospital emergency care and isolation areas, prepare quarantine sites, and purchase medical equipment.
This emergency relief funding was made available under the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to DOI Assistant Secretary Douglas W. Domenech.
“Secretary Bernhardt and I are pleased to see that the CNMI is moving quickly to effectively utilize the COVID-19 funding provided for under the CARES Act through Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs,” Domenech said.
“We applaud the CNMI’s work to upgrade and retrofit the hospital for better infectious disease control, develop quarantine sites, and upgrade necessary medical equipment in order to further serve and protect their resident populations and visitors. We also thank President Trump for securing this critical funding from Congress to support the insular areas.”
The projects for which the CNMI has received approval to utilize the $2,518,897 are listed below:
$714,837 will be used to retrofit and renovate emergency rooms for infectious disease control at the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC), the only hospital in the CNMI. Retrofitting is necessary to improve patient intake, flow, and isolation, while protecting the safety and well-being of both patients and healthcare workers. Funds will also be used to acquire appropriate medical equipment necessary to provide infectious disease care.
$487,182 will fund acquisition of an oxygen generation system and mobile ultraviolet cleaning or decontamination device for use at the CHCC.
$396,830 will be used to provide an upgrade for the CHCC’s reverse osmosis and sterilization systems.
$371,800 will be used to prepare the former Marianas Resort property, now under the jurisdiction of the CNMI government, to serve as a non-congregate shelter or quarantine site for inbound passengers. Over 100 rooms in varying sizes will be made available for COVID-19-related activities and for patients should cases reach upsurge limits or if the virus should spread exponentially within the community.
$320,718 will be used to make parking lot infrastructure upgrades and adjustments necessary related to the official medical care and treatment site as approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
$227,530 will be used purchase a mobile x-ray system and a computerized tomography or CT scan system and supplies for the CHCC.
In April, the Office of Insular Affairs formally invited the insular areas governments to submit requests for emergency relief funding made available through the CARES Act.
At that time, $55 million in emergency relief funding was awarded to the territories and the freely associated states to prepare, prevent, and respond to the pandemic. OIA divided the $55 million among the insular areas, and the CNMI was awarded a total amount of $4,042,585, leaving a balance of $1,523,688 available for additional Covid-19 related expenditures in the CNMI.
For American Samoa, DOI announced a $2.56 million in grant funding from the department's Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program for fiscal year 2020 to support human resource development and training, technological upgrades, digitization and preservation efforts, and small business incubation efforts.
Domenech said this funding for American Samoa will strengthen public services such as transportation, healthcare, and utilities. Funds will also be used to support and encourage the incubation of new business outsourcing efforts and to leverage new high-speed internet connections in the territory.
“We also appreciate Congress for the important funding support that it provides each year to American Samoa and each of the insular areas,” he said.
The Technical Assistance Program grants provided to the various departments and offices within the American Samoa government for fiscal year 2020 are listed as follows:
Department of Legal Affairs - $499,000 will be used to digitize and preserve land title documents, business and articles of incorporation records, and other important legal registry documents dating back to the 1800's. Funding will also support computer upgrades and record digitization of the immigration and border management system in the territory.
Lyndon B. Johnson Medical Center - $378,000 will be used to train and certify respiratory therapy technicians as well as procure a new human resources software system, provide training for staff on this new system, and train and certify respiratory therapy technicians. Funding will also be used to purchase new laboratory equipment and supplies.
American Samoa Power Authority - $300,000 to upgrade the data center network, which includes the purchase of hardware, software, licensing, back-up modules, installation, and training. The upgrade will include new features to improve cybersecurity, disaster recovery, and service restoration in the event of emergencies.
Department of Port Administration - $298,000 will be used to update the electronic ticketing and financial operations system for the territory’s intra-island ferry services as well as fund an upgrade of the video surveillance and security system at the Pago Pago International Airport.
American Samoa Shipyard Authority - $266,000 will be used to conduct hazardous waste removal from the shipyard in compliance with the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental protection regulations.
Office of the Administrative Law Judge - $243,600 will be used to support efforts in the territory to strengthen administrative rule and to improve executive branch responsibilities, such as budget and policy development, economic development planning, and federal reporting requirements across government agencies in the territory.
Department of Commerce - $188,800 will be used to support efforts to diversify the economy through outsourcing and help new and early-stage companies seeking to leverage the new high-speed internet infrastructure in the territory and connection to the global market through a business incubator.
Department of the Treasury - $166,799 will be used to fund two years of participation in annual meetings for tax officials from American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau in the All Islands Tax Administrators Association (AITAA) meetings with officials from the Internal Revenue Service. The AITAA supports tax compliance and revenue management in the insular areas. The American Samoa government is currently managing AITAA administration and participation on behalf of the insular areas.
Department of Public Works - $130,000 will be used to fund the first year of an apprenticeship and workforce development training and certification program with the American Samoa Community College to train new heavy machinery mechanics, welders, plumbers, journeymen, and carpenters. Funds will also be used to procure supplies and protective gear necessary for emergency responders in the face of natural disasters such as Cyclone Gita in 2018, which caused flooding and destruction across the territory.
Department of Human Resources - $90,000 will be used to support the “Road to Recovery: Alcohol & Substance Abuse Initiative” by providing drug test kits and training as part of implementing a new drug and alcohol policy for civil servants in the territory.