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Close to 500 government employees furloughed

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CLOSE to 500 government employees including 21 police officers, 11 of them senior officers, were furloughed due to the massive economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Torres administration provided lawmakers on Friday the overall furlough list from different departments, branches and agencies. The list also includes 29 employees from the offices of the governor and lt. governor, among them were the special assistant for cannabis industry, former Speaker Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero and community relations coordinator Maria Annamae Adaza.

The CNMI government has about 3,500 employees, excluding those who work for independent agencies.

House Ways and Means Chairman Ivan Blanco said his committee asked for the list to determine the impact of furloughs on the current fiscal year budget and how it would affect the FY 2021 budget.

The salaries of those on the furlough list total $11.6 million, plus $1.6 million in fringe benefits.

Other lawmakers want to know how the furloughed employees were selected.

Rep. Ralph N. Yumul said he noticed that there are personnel on the list who are long-time employees, and some of them are already “institutions” in their departments, having worked there for 20 years.

“So we want to know the selection process,” he added.

House Minority Leader Edwin Propst said they want to know the criteria that the administration used in selecting those who were furloughed.

He said it is the same question that the furloughed employees asked but never got an answer.

“We would like to hear from the governor himself and not from his press secretary,” Propst said.

The lawmaker added that he and his colleagues in the House would like to invite the governor to speak to them and explain the selection process for furloughs.

In April, the governor said that due to the steep drop in government revenue caused by the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CNMI government had to cut personnel costs by 50%.

“Tough decisions have to be made,” the governor said, adding that “revenues are down 50% so we need to make those adjustments now.”

Aside from the 29 employees under the offices of the governor and lt.  governor, 29 employees were also furloughed from the judicial branch, including five deputy marshals and four probation officers.

Also furloughed were 14 employees of the Department of Commerce, four of them Alcohol Beverage Tobacco Control enforcement officers; 24 from the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs; 11 from the Department of Corrections, one of them former commissioner, now Corrections Director Gregory Castro; 21 from the Department of Finance; 10 from the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, two of them fire captains; seven from the Department of Labor; 28 from the Department of Lands and Natural Resources; and 16 from the Department of Public Works.

Eighty-seven employees from Rota were also furloughed, 47 of them worked for the Rota Mayor’s Office; 104 from Tinian, 69 from the Tinian Mayor’s Office; 32 from Saipan Mayor’s Office; six from the Northern Islands Mayor’s Office; three from the Saipan Municipal Council; 18 from the Office of Personnel Management; nine from the Attorney General’s Office; 13 from Substance Abuse; six from the Medical Referral Office; and eight from the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library.

 

 

 

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