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    Sunday, November 18, 2018-5:32:44A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Kilili asks governor to cooperate on typhoon appropriation requests

(Office of the CNMI Congressional Delegate) — U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has asked Gov. Ralph Torres to cooperate with him putting together a joint request for special disaster assistance from the U.S. Congress.

“The Appropriations Committee is most responsive when requests for assistance are the product of cooperation and agreement between the office of the governor and the congressional delegation,” Sablan told the governor on Sunday. “Because Congress will immediately reconvene next week, I will be returning then to make sure the Marianas obtains the funding assistance we need for our recovery. Being able to say that I speak in agreement with the governor will make that effort much more likely to succeed.”

Congressman Sablan said that congressional appropriators are already working on funding for disaster relief in the wake of hurricanes Florence and Michael, which struck the eastern U.S. a few weeks ago, and Super Typhoon Yutu. “I have already spoken to appropriators about the possible need to provide supplemental Medicaid funding to the Marianas under terms similar to those that were extended to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during their recovery from hurricanes last year.

“I have also communicated to the committees responsible for food assistance,” Kilili reported to the governor. “The Commonwealth has not yet announced that disaster food assistance will be available for Tinian and Saipan, as it was after Typhoon Soudelor and as it is now for Rota after Typhoon Mangkhut. I understand, however, that you are in the process of preparing to provide such aid to the families ordinarily eligible, as well as to those whose incomes have been temporarily interrupted and whose household food supplies were lost in Yutu.”

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has authority to provide help to individuals and households after a natural disaster. The Agency also assists state and territorial governments rebuild water and power systems and other public infrastructure. After Typhoon Soudelor FEMA gave out $37 million for individual assistance and $39 million for infrastructure. Another $10 million has gone for hazard mitigation grants to harden the Commonwealth’s water and power systems to withstand typhoons.

“The Commonwealth was already facing the end of the Medicaid funding I got for us in the Affordable Care Act,” said Kilili, “and the extra food stamp money I put into the Agricultural Act of 2014 was supposed to be dedicated to making more families eligible.

“Yutu recovery will drain those available funds and we need to replace the money. FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Fund cannot do that.”

Congressman Sablan asked the governor to work with him “to assess what assistance is needed for the Marianas, above and beyond what can be provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, and to estimate what the costs of such additional assistance may be.”

Among the programs that may need special Yutu-related funds are Project SERV grants. The School Emergency Response to Violence program was recommended to Sablan by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in their phone call last Wednesday. The Education Department administers Project SERV grants.