By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The 2022 federal spending bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday includes nine community projects worth $4.5 million for the Northern Marianas, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said.
The bill, which is headed to the U.S. Senate, also includes $30 million for the Marianas Nutrition Assistance Program and extends the CNMI's 17 percent matching rate for Medicaid.
"This local match is lower than every state’s except Mississippi’s and would otherwise have reverted to 38.8 percent, more than doubling the cost of Medicaid for the Commonwealth government," Sablan said. “Together with the increased funding for Medicaid—$64 million this year—the low local match will ensure over 15,000 people in the Marianas continue to receive health care through Medicaid.”
The legal limit for Marianas Medicaid increased from about $6 million to $60 million in U.S. Public Law 116-94 two years ago. The money is adjusted each year based on rising costs.
Sablan said also important to the Marianas in this year’s federal spending bill is a $400 boost in Pell grants, a 6 percent increase in public school funding, continuation of a 1.5 percent set-aside for water and sewer money worth $7.2 million, and $11 million for grants to lower the cost of electricity in the insular areas.
Appropriations for the community projects requested by Sablan are as follows:
Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation
· $980,639 for IT upgrades to increase interoperability between islands and facilitate patient record storage, allowing for greater use of telehealth.
· $391,500 to expand home dialysis on Rota.
· $1,200,000 to renovate and modernize laboratory facilities to meet national standards and codes.
Public School System
· $150,000 for school library expansion, including a district-wide e-library.
· $150,000 to collect body mass index data school-wide and use that information to encourage young people to stay physically active.
· $350,000 to expand the successful language and cultural heritage immersion program of Kagman Elementary School to more public elementary schools.
Northern Marianas College
· $952,394 for an innovation incubator at the College’s Small Business Development Center.
· $50,000 for a generator and housing for Guma Esperansa.
· $303,000 to determine the viability of a mental health treatment court with a specific docket for veterans.
“This year for the first time since 2010 Members of Congress have agreed to allow direct funding for specific organizations in our home districts,” Sablan said.