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Governor: ‘We will overcome this crisis’

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WITH everyone’s assistance and cooperation Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said he is confident that the Commonwealth can overcome the current — and worsening — Covid-19 crisis.

In his letter informing the Legislature about the new budget cuts, the governor said, “This is undoubtedly a challenging time for our Commonwealth.”

“However,” he added, “with your assistance and cooperation, I am confident in our collective ability to overcome this current fiscal challenge and ensure that the delivery of essential public services will continue to be met for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth.”

Torres said the CNMI has made “significant strides toward recovering from Super Typhoon Yutu, [but] the Covid-19 impact, including the recent confirmation of two cases in the CNMI and [58] cases in Guam, is drastically affecting all areas of revenue-generation for the CNMI.”

The governor noted that non-essential government operations have been shut down indefinitely; the Public School System has closed all public schools for the remainder of the current school year; Northern Marianas College has halted on-campus classes and transitioned to online platforms; and he has also ordered the closure of all private schools for the remainder of the current school year.

For its part, the local business community has been greatly affected, largely evident in the reduction of operation hours and, in some cases, outright closures, the governor said.

He has informed the Legislature that due to escalated adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FY2020 budget needs to be reduced by an additional 20%. From $148.8 million as originally set by Public Law 21-8, the government’s budget amount for FY 2020 is now down to $77.1 million — a 48% reduction.

In an interview, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan said that in this time of crisis, “it is incumbent upon us as legislators to cooperate and work together as leaders of the Commonwealth not only to prevent the further spread of the virus but also to find the way toward economic recovery.”

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