House expected to approve new federal relief package



Saipan-- CNMI Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan announced today that agreement has been reached on a new economic relief package to help people in the Marianas and communities all around the United States get through the coronavirus pandemic.


The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on passage Monday in Washington with the Senate to follow quickly.


The $908 billion spending bill will continue the pandemic unemployment assistance

(PUA) that has helped so many Marianas workers, who lost their jobs due to the

coronavirus. Federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) will also

restart and continue through March 14, although at a reduced rate of $300 weekly.


Direct payments of $600 will go to taxpayers, similar to the CARES Act economic

impact payments earlier this year. Individuals earning under $75,000 and couples

earning under $150,000 will qualify. They will also receive $600 for each child

dependent.


Marianas public schools will be able to stay open with teachers and other staff paid

out of a special set-aside of $409 million for insular area Kindergarten through 12

grade education. College students will receive an increase in Pell grants and special

funds are allocated for minority serving institutions such as Northern Marianas

College.


And the $14 million that CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres told Sablan was necessary, so no one in the Marianas would be cut from the Nutritional Assistance Program or have their benefits reduced is also in the bill.


“The Democratic Caucus has been meeting virtually all weekend to reach

agreement on this Covid relief package,” Sablan said. “My first concern in these sessions is always to insist the Marianas are included in the larger national programs, as we did with unemployment and the direct payments to individuals, when the CARES Act passed last March.


“But there are always other areas, more specific to the Marianas, that also require

persistent reminders to leadership and the staff who are writing the bill, such as food aid,

because we are not part of SNAP, the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance

Program. I have been talking with Speaker Pelosi and Appropriations Committee Chair

Lowey this weekend and throughout the process of putting together a new relief package.

They are both good champions of the U.S. insular areas and I am very grateful for their

assistance,” Sablan said.


On Guam, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has issued the following statement:

“It has been more than six months since Congress passed the first stimulus package, and this nearly $900 billion coronavirus relief package could not have come at a better time. Our people, and people across the nation, have been impacted by Covid-19, and no one can deny that federal assistance is needed.


"We have worked personally with the National Governors Association to ensure Guam was included in coronavirus relief efforts for the states and territories. As discussions were ongoing, we made contact with key leaders in the Senate and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the House. And our advocacy of the Team Guam message was heard in the White House and among members of the incoming Biden Administration.


"We are thankful to the members of Congress for working across party lines to get this package through.”



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