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Kilili hails award of over $17M for NMI water/sewer infrastructure

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(Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) —  The Environmental Protection Agency has announced an award of over $17 million to the Marianas for water and sewer infrastructure.

$10,400,000 of these funds come from a specific set-aside for the Marianas that U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan included in last year’s disaster relief act, U.S. Public Law 116-20. The balance of $7,191,000 is from funds set aside for the Marianas and other territories in the EPA appropriation for fiscal year 2020, U.S. Public Law 116-94. Sablan has been able to increase the EPA set-aside every year since 2010.

Kilili said it can be frustrating to wait for appropriated funds to reach the Commonwealth. It has been over a year since Congress passed the disaster relief act in June 2019, and nine months since Congress passed the fiscal 2020 appropriation.

“Despite the time lag between when Congress acted and when the executive branch made the award, the money is reaching the Commonwealth when the economy is in bad shape and when this infusion of federal funds can create jobs and put businesses to work,” Sablan said.

“This $17.5 million is also timely, when so much of our attention is on the need to raise standards for public health and maintain a clean environment. Those are important goals not only for the quality of life of residents, but also to reassure prospective tourists that the Marianas is safe to visit.”

Water and sewer funding has been a signature focus of Sablan’s work in Congress. In 2010, just a year after he was first elected, Sablan was able to annually increase funding set aside for insular areas within the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act from 0.25 and 0.33%, respectively, to 1.5% in annual appropriations laws. At the time, only about one in four Marianas households had 24-hour access to water from the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation.

The $7,191,000 announced  reflects the increased 1.5% allocation to funds set aside for the Marianas in EPA appropriations. $3,944,000 comes from the Clean Water Act and $3,247,000 from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The formula increase has brought a total of $85 million to the Marianas since 2010 and is directly responsible for most households now receiving 24-hour water.

In July, Sablan attempted to make the 1.5% set-aside permanent, rather than a change he has to work to get every year. Sablan successfully offered a floor amendment for that purpose to Democrats’ sweeping infrastructure bill, H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. The House passed the bill, 233-188, but the Republican-led Senate has refused to take action.

The Moving Forward Act also contains $90 million for Marianas school facilities over the next 5 years, $10 million annually for federal roads in the Marianas, and a $400,000 annual increase for the islands’ new public bus system.

 

 

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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