CNMI unveils spending plan for CARES Act fund

                                                                          CNMI Finance Secretary David Atalig

 

Saipan— The CNMI Department of Finance on Sunday unveiled the government’s spending plan for the $36 million relief fund it has received from the federal government under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

 

“This new pool of resources has certainly provided relief to the costs associated with the CNMI government’s response to the global outbreak of Covid-19. The additional $36 million will provide the resources to pay the many obligations associated with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our community against this threat,” Finance Secretary David Atalig said.

 

Rep. Gregorio Kilili Sablan, the CNMI’s delegate to the U.S. Congress,  last week reminded the CNMI that the CARES Act funds must be expended by Dec. 30 or it would be returned to the federal government.

 

The U.S. Department of Treasury provides strict guidance and sets forth limitations for states and territories to follow. The funding can only be used to cover the following:

  • costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19.

  • costs that were not accounted for in the CNMI’s FY 2020 budget.

  • and costs that were incurred beginning March 1, 2020.

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 In line with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s guidance, Atalig said the $36 million allocated to the CNMI will be used for healthcare and community response to the coronavirus outbreak in line with the healthcare needs of the CNMI population and the guidelines provided by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

 

The CNMI expenditure plan for this allotment of CARES Act funding includes:

  • $11, 000,000 for the procurement of Covid-19 test kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), first aid kits, disinfectant sprays, and sanitation equipment.

  • $6,400,000 for capitalized fixed assets, which include ventilators, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, monitors, portable x-rays, ultrasounds, infusion pumps and COVID-19 detection kits.

  • $6,000,000 for services provided by health care professionals, sanitation and disinfection services, engineering services and laboratory testing professionals.

  • $1,512,500 for the construction of the Medical Care and Treatment Site (MCATS) which is outside of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, construction for alternative medical sites, and costs associated with renovation for social distancing measures and protective shielding in commonly visited offices.

  • $10,000,000 to support payroll expenses of first responders in public safety, human services, ancillary services, and support staff related to the COVID-19 emergency and response.

  • $200,000 for rental costs of the off-site quarantine facilities.

  • $1,171,717.70 in assorted related expenses including meals for individuals in quarantine, communications, travel cost of chartered cargo flights for PPE equipment and supplies, and office expenses.

 

This is a total of $36,284,217.70 for costs covered under the U.S. Department of Treasury guidance. Many of the expenses made against the resources provided under the Coronavirus Relief Funds have been expended throughout the response to the outbreak.

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 “If it were not for this funding source, the CNMI would have to ensure these costs associated with procuring testing and protective supplies, safeguarding our front liners and increasing the capacity of our healthcare system to meet the threat of this global pandemic with our limited local resources,” Atalig said. “However, the CNMI’s financial situation has been severely impacted by the loss of our tourism sector, the increasing jobless rate within the private sector and the diminishing government resources as a result.”

 

Atalig clarified that this funding only covers public health expenditures and does not cover Economic Impact Payments, better known as the “stimulus checks.” That is a separate source of funding.

 

“The CARES Act funding for the stimulus checks for the CNMI have not been processed because the IRS is still processing the funds before we disburse it through our Division of Revenue and Taxation. According to the IRS, the funds will be received by mid-May, but the Governor and our department continue to expedite this because we want to get this money into the hands of our residents as soon as possible. We will make sure our people get their stimulus checks, and we will assist everyone if they need further documentation,” he said.

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  “I am thankful that Governor Torres joined with Governors across the nation in requesting Congress to recognize the severe strain all of our government finances are under because of this pandemic. We require federal assistance that directly supports the massive budget shortfalls that are affecting our ability to maintain public services,” Atalig said.

 

The CARES Act established a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, including the CNMI, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa and tribal governments.  The funds are distributed based on the population of each jurisdiction.

 

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