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NMI receives $125M in federal emergency aid

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U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan on Wednesday said the CNMI has already received $125 million in federal emergency aid to address the health and economic crisis caused by Covid-19.

The funding is primarily for the Commonwealth government, the Public School System, Northern Marianas College, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, everyone working in healthcare, as well as food aid for children and families, he said in his remarks during the virtual general membership meeting of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

Kilili said the CNMI is also getting economic impact payments amounting to another $45 million, as well as funding for the Payroll Protection Program or PPP that is helping businesses pay their employees.

“I’m working with Congress to leverage another $90 million from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] at the governor’s request. This is a community disaster loan that can be converted to an outright grant if the Commonwealth meets certain conditions,” the congressman said.

Regarding the second round of PPP, he said, “I think the pool of money that is available has not been depleted, and I think banks or lenders here will continue to draw from the money as they see applications come in.”

His senior advisor, Adam Tanga, said PPP funds amount to $135 billion. “Given how Congress has acted to replenish funds, we expect that if there were any need to do that, then Congress should act,” he added.

“Just last week,” he said, “the [U.S.] House passed a bill to provide greater flexibility to the PPP, and the good news is that the [U.S.] Senate has said that they will bring the bill to the floor as soon as possible, maybe as early as this week.”

According to Kilili, “As of May 30, 362 Marianas businesses had received $35.6 million in loans that should convert to grants if terms are met.”

Unemployment assistance will also mean another $70 million for the CNMI, he said.

“Congress has provided what was needed to prop up businesses and households financially, but more is needed,” he added, referring to the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions or HEROES Act, which has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate.

The additional funding from the HEROES Act will help keep CNMI government services running, support schools and CHCC, and put “more money in people’s pockets,” Kilili said.

As for the federal assistance provided to the CNMI following Typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu in September and October 2018, Kilili said: “By my count, the Marianas received $180 million to help with the damage from Yutu and Mangkhut, and there are [Economic Development Administration] grant applications in the pipeline to rebuild schools and other infrastructure destroyed by typhoons.”

Moreover, $244 million in community development block grant funds for disaster recovery will be set aside for the CNMI as soon as its spending plan is completed.

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