Governor disappointed in lack of action by Congressional Democrats on Covid-19 relief

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THE administration on Thursday said as the “Covid-19 pandemic continues to negatively affect the United States and severely impacted state and territorial economies, Senate Democrats last week blocked the Republican coronavirus relief bill that would have provided additional assistance for residents, businesses, and state governments.”

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres expressed his disappointment through the following statement:

“This news is unfortunate, as Congress continues to show a lack of action. Since the enactment of the CARES Act, which was led by President Trump and Senate Republicans, the CNMI has been diligently working to strengthen our pandemic response and give direct monetary assistance to our residents and businesses in the form of stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and small business loans.

“As Governor, I have been on calls with the White House almost every week and receive numerous updates from our Congressional leaders on the next round of Covid-19 relief for our entire country — especially for us here in the Territories. Our Delegate to Congress, Congressman Sablan, has continued to tell me in letters that the Congress will be passing a second stimulus bill for Covid-19 relief, which I have expressed support for in order to get additional assistance for our people.

“Last week, Democrats blocked a Republican proposal that would have authorized new money for small businesses, increased funding for Covid-19 testing and schools, and funding for unemployment benefits. Congressman Sablan informed me months ago that a coronavirus relief bill would include more funding for our NAP office — but no real solutions have been presented by the Congressional Democrats on this.

“Because of a lack of congressional action, President Trump and the White House are now going to focus on getting assistance for our people and businesses through executive action. The President has already signed four executive orders providing unemployment benefits along with the continuation of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, preventing evictions, deferring payroll tax obligations which helps our low- and middle-income taxpayers, and relieving student loan debt.

“The White House has also expressed support for another round $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals. These are priorities that are supported across the country, and we thank the President for continuing to prioritize everyone in the U.S. affected by the pandemic.

“Regrettably, the CNMI was shortchanged in the last CARES Act. While Guam received approximately $1.63 billion, the CNMI only received about $250 million as of September. Based off our population, which is approximately a third of Guam’s, the CNMI should have received about $543 million. This was a lack of inaction once again by Congressman Sablan to maximize Covid-19 funds for the CNMI. Our administration continues to do its part to expend the funding we received in compliance with federal spending requirements.

“The CNMI has suffered some of the worst impacts to overall economic activity of any other community in the nation, but despite these disproportionate impacts, the people of the CNMI received substantially less per capita in government support for critical public services and emergency response capabilities. Even the smallest states in the nation were guaranteed at least $1.25 billion in support for unappropriated expenses, while the CNMI was given less than $40 million for government services.

“This inability to work for the CNMI even among a Democrat-controlled House either means the Democratic leadership does not care for the people of the CNMI, or they do not care for our representative to Congress.

“Yet despite Congressman Sablan and the Democrats’ inaction, we have done more with less.

“Since January, our Commonwealth has done its part to prepare our islands against Covid-19, and we are blessed to say that we are one of the safest places in the US and in the world because we were proactive and our community has cooperated to protect our manamko’ and our critically ill. But we need more help to continue our strong response against Covid-19.

“We are tired of waiting on false promises by Congress and letters from our Delegate saying that there is going to be another CARES Act funding from Congress, when Democrats blocked Republican solutions that were reasonable and fair. But we continue to encourage Congressman Sablan to urge his fellow Democratic colleagues to work with Republicans on bipartisan Covid-19 relief.

“As Governor, I will continue to be proactive and work with the White House and our President so that we can get additional funding that will directly assist our people. We hope the Congressional Democrats can stop playing politics with our people by working with the solutions Republicans have proposed to protect our country.”

Kilili’s comment

Asked for comment, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan issued the following statement on Friday morning:

“Three weeks after his press release saying we should put politics aside, Governor Torres and his staff have issued an attack on Washington Democrats.

“So much for 'let’s work together.’

“It looks like the Governor is suddenly worried. Voting is starting here at home and people in the Marianas are deciding between Republican and Democratic leadership in our own Legislature.

“If the Governor changes the conversation to national politics, maybe voters will stop asking why it takes so long for Marianas Republicans to get PUA checks to people who desperately need help.

“If people are distracted by national politics, maybe they will not ask why the Governor is planning to cut food assistance to over 5,000 Marianas families, when he still has millions of federal dollars available and more on the way.

“If he can fool Marianas voters into thinking negotiations in Washington between Pelosi, McConnell, Meadows and Mnuchin are more important than what is happening here at home, they will forget their Republican Governor, his family, and staff are under investigation by the FBI and a grand jury.

“You have to ask, if Governor Torres really thinks Kilili is doing such a terrible job in Congress, why was he unable to find any Republican candidate willing to stick their neck out and run against me?

“Looks like the Governor is just afraid Marianas Republicans will lose this election — and what that means for his own chances two years from now.

“He knows Marianas voters are tired of his ineffective government, and the smell of cronyism and corruption.”

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