Kilili: $116.5M FEMA aid obligated to NMI

MORE than $116 million in disaster assistance has been obligated to the CNMI, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said, citing information provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On his Facebook page, Kilili said: “I was surprised to learn from FEMA that $116,572,000 has been obligated to the Commonwealth.”

Gregorio Sablan

He said his office has been receiving inquiries from vendors who provided services to the CNMI government for Super Typhoon Yutu recovery and restoration.

Kilili said his office was told “that there are administrative steps that needed to be completed before the funds are transferred to the Commonwealth. Those steps can take at least a couple of weeks. Even with that, a majority of the awards were issued months ago. The funds should be with the Commonwealth. We asked FEMA for the amounts from those obligated funds that have been received by the Commonwealth government to date by funding award.”

He added, “Just so there is transparency on this matter, we are making public the information and data FEMA shared with the congressional office.” (See Kilili’s Facebook page @congressmansablan)

In a statement, the Torres-Palacios administration said: “The funding awarded by FEMA and obligated to the CNMI are for specific projects, and those allocated funds must be for those listed projects. Most of the over $100 million in FEMA funds awarded thus far have been spent and committed to these projects. The remaining balance will be made available for drawdown to pay vendors that have provided or continue to provide services during our response and recovery efforts. For the repairs or replacements of buildings and contents for government owned property, $7.7 million is available for reimbursement once the work is completed and more projects are expected to be awarded in the near future. This means that over $90 million has been drawn down for our response and recovery efforts to restore power and water, provide temporary schools for the Public School System and Northern Marianas College, remove debris from roadways and villages, and pay suppliers and service providers.

“To be clear, the central government has had to pay upfront for many immediate relief and recovery obligations, including power restoration, water distribution, and tents for the TETRIS (temporary housing) program.

“This process delayed payment because a majority of central government funding were prioritized for life saving and life sustaining missions that prioritized all our residents affected.”

But vendor payments “continue to be made, and we remain committed to fulfilling all remaining obligations. The FEMA funding that has come in has replenished the government coffers for normal government operations and to stabilize critical services. With additional FEMA reimbursements on the way, as well as funding from the [Marianas Public Land Trust] on the way, full payments will be made to the government’s dedicated and hardworking vendors very soon. We appreciate the vendors’ patience with the FEMA reimbursement process and our government’s coffers slowly getting back to normal revenue levels,” the administration said.