FEMA approves $22.1 million reimbursement for CNMI
By Emmanuel Erediano
Saipan (Marianas Variety) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved about $22.1 million in reimbursements for the CNMI government's expenses in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Gov. Arnold I. Palacios announced on Saturday.
“Upon assuming office earlier this year, Lt. Gov. David M. Apatang and I emphasized that expediting these reimbursements from FEMA would be a key priority. I’d like to thank the hardworking team at the CNMI Public Assistance Office for its focus on this effort,” the governor said, adding that as of Saturday, "we have received over $36 million [in reimbursements] over the past 10 months.” The $22.1 million is included in the $36 million that the CNMI has so far received for Covid-19-related expenses. The governor also expressed his gratitude to U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan "for the integral role he and his office played in facilitating the reimbursements. In particular, his office has been advocating for the expediting of FEMA’s review and award process."
“Congressman Kilili and his team worked tirelessly to facilitate these reimbursements and to help coordinate communication between the CNMI and FEMA,” Palacios added.
He said the reimbursement package was approved under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act
It includes $12 million in payments made by the CNMI for activities to support the administration of testing and vaccination at multiple locations in Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. It also covers the administration of 98,159 diagnostic Covid-19 tests to high-risk individuals, students and staff, healthcare workers, emergency response personnel, critical infrastructure personnel, and all other community members (general public), as well as medical transport, equipment, and the distribution of supplies and disinfection services at the testing and vaccination sites.
Further, the governor said, the reimbursements include the $9.4 million that was paid to maintain and operate the quarantine site at the former Mariana Resort for residents and visitors.
From July 2021 to July 2022, the CNMI sheltered 5,749 individuals there for an average five days of stay. The costs included meals, cleaning, laundry services, room disinfection, trash disposal, etc.
Earlier this month, the CNMI received close to $700,000 in reimbursements for the quarantine sites on Tinian and Rota.
“FEMA’s approval of the $22.1 million reimbursement could not have come at a more auspicious time given many of the financial challenges the CNMI is facing and the critical expenses we need to address to maintain essential government programs and services,” the governor said.
He said his office continues to work with Kilili "to expedite the approval of the pending reimbursement requests. In a report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office last month, FEMA confirmed that it has $58 million pending in reimbursements for the CNMI.