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Kilili introduces NMI emergency funding bill

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U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to appropriate $100 million for the CNMI.

Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan

In his e-newsletter, Kilili said the Northern Mariana Islands Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Act is “to address the budget cuts and other austerity measures the Commonwealth is taking.”

“I introduced legislation on Thursday providing $100 million in operational funding,” he added. “My Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Act is intended to make sure the people of the Marianas, especially our vulnerable seniors and children, have access to the care and education essential to their health, safety, and well-being.”

Kilili said the coronavirus will have an economic impact across the U.S. and the world.

“But because the Marianas is tourism-dependent and the CNMI’s tourists come from areas hit hard by the coronavirus — China, Korea, and Japan — we are at the frontline,” he added.

“My bill calls attention to our immediate need in the Marianas and will help push Congress to act quickly to face the economic effects of coronavirus.”

The bill, which was introduced on March 5 was referred to the House Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In his remarks on the U.S. House floor, Kilili said the coronavirus outbreak has hit “tourism- dependent jurisdictions like the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands particularly hard. Major hotels have less than 30 percent occupancy. Airlines serving our islands have cut routes. As a result, less funds will be available to provide health and other public services for the people of my district. Our Commonwealth’s governor, Ralph Torres, declared a state of significant emergency on January 29 and implemented across-the-board budget cuts and austerity measures including a 20 percent cut to teachers’ salaries and a 4-day school week. Last week, acting Gov. Arnold Palacios extended the state of emergency for another 30 days. Today, Governor Torres declared a price freeze on food, water, clothing, emergency supplies as well as fuel. Due to forces beyond our control, the people of my district are facing an emergency that requires me as their sole representative in Congress to act now and provide emergency assistance measures to ensure their health and safety.”

Kilili noted that the U.S. House has passed an $8 billion emergency supplemental funding bill that will help every part of the nation respond to the coronavirus.

“However, these funds cannot be used to support general government operations such as public education. This is why I am introducing the Northern Mariana Islands Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Act to provide $100 million in fiscal support to ensure all members of my community, especially our seniors and children, can continue to access the care and education essential to their health, safety and families’ well-being.”

Kilili said the bill “is fully paid for using sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which was valued at an estimated $42 billion according to the Government Accountability Office.”

“I urge my colleagues to support Northern Mariana Islands Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Act,” he added.

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