Before it can receive CARES funds, PSS to go through drawdown process first

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THE Public School System was awarded $23 million in Education Stabilization Fund through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act, but the drawdown process still needs to take place, PSS acting finance director Kimo Rosario said on Thursday.

He added that the drawdown process covers each expense item. “Each drawdown must specify the use of funds. Federal funds are program-specific and uses of these funds are strictly monitored,” Rosario added.

The U.S. Department of Education allocated a total of $27.9 million for CNMI education.

During the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday afternoon, PSS federal programs manager Tim Thornburgh said the Education Stabilization Fund has two components: $23.1 million goes to PSS and $4.7 million goes to the governor’s Emergency Relief Fund. “I was told 75% of that [$4.7 million] will be coming to the PSS.”

The Education Stabilization Fund will be used to retire the PSS deficit in FY 2020, and fund next school year’s operations, Rosario said.

“The very first disbursement we want to make is to pay the non-teaching staff — counselors, librarians, and others — who were not paid the previous week,” Thornburgh said.

According to Rosario, PSS paid the locally funded teachers in full for pay periods 8 and 9 after the Department of Finance transferred $1.3 million in the first week of May.

The remaining payroll debt of PSS amounts to $1.4 million, and is for pay periods 9 and 10, he added.

He said PSS also owes its 190-day contract employees their summer pay, which amounts to $3.4 million. “PSS will also settle this debt,” he added.

For the summer pay, Thornburgh said it will be pro-rated. “Most of them taught for 146 days. We have done this in prior years. If you came in the middle of the year, your summer pay was prorated based on the number of days taught,” he added.

Moreover, PSS will pay its outstanding obligations to vendors and contractors amounting to $1.7 million.

Other PSS expenses include payment for utilities, which amounts to $723,828 for December 2019 through April 2020, Thornburgh said.

PSS will also set aside $990,000 for teachers who will participate in a remote teaching project, which will run for five to six weeks, he said, adding that this will prepare teachers for remote teaching.

“We are estimating that at least 300 PSS teachers [are participating]. We will also allot $247,500 for our private school teachers who are eligible to participate in this training program,” Thornburgh said.

PSS plans to purchase laptops and acquire more connectivity, he added.

All these expenses will cost PSS between $11.2 million and $11.9 million, Thornburgh said.

“That is okay because we can still carry forward at least $11 million for fiscal year 2021 to supplement the local appropriation, which is estimated at $19 million,” he added.

PSS is now hoping to meet with the governor to discuss the Emergency Education Relief Fund from which the school system is hoping to get $3.5 million, Thornburgh said.

He likewise informed BOE members that the U.S. House is passing another emergency stimulus bill called HEROES Act, which has a $3 trillion price tag.

“There is definitely some money in it for state and local governments and for educational systems like PSS. The U.S. House and Senate are sorting out the [legislation].”


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