House panel looks into CARES Act funding

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THE House Special Committee on Federal Assistance and Disaster Related Funding met on Monday morning to discuss the administration’s intended use of the $36 million of federal funding provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Ralph Yumul with House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan as vice chairman. The members are Reps. Joseph Leepan Guerrero, Tina Sablan, and Luis John Castro.

The committee members noted the lack of a detailed breakdown of how the funding will be allocated by the administration.

House Floor Leader Sablan wants to see the documents regarding the rental payment or agreement between the administration and the Pacific Islands Club and Kanoa Resort, both of which serve as the Commonwealth’s Covid-19 quarantine sites.

“I know that some of these items are pretty much Covid-19-related, but none [of them] address the rental payments for PIC and Kanoa. I am assuming that they probably used FEMA funds, but maybe we can request that specific item, as to what sort of funding is actually being [utilized], and how much they are [spending on] Kanoa and PIC.”

He added, “It is very, very important that we understand that in having this federal aid come into play, what does that result in? How much of local revenue from the local economy does that free up? Where are all of those local revenues directed to? I think that is so important for us to also know.”

Rep. Tina Sablan agreed. “I think we should also get [copies of] all of the contracts. There are a number of contracts going out for catering, all kinds of supplies, testing kits, charter flights, renovations that are happening at the facilities. There are all sorts of contracting. I think it is really important to just bring some transparency to how much we are spending, and where the money is coming from exactly.”

She said, “FEMA is covering some of it, but not all of it. I think we should just get a clearer picture of where all of the local sources are coming from.”

Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero emphasized the importance of specifying whether the disaster package also includes funding for past CNMI disasters, such as Super Typhoon Yutu.

“I want them to be very specific that this funding is Covid-19-related,” he stated, referring to the administration.

He said it should also be clarified how much of the general funding the administration has utilized in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We just want to know the details of how the administration is spending this money,” he added.

Rep. LJ Castro suggested that the committee hold a meeting with the governor’s authorized representative, Patrick Guerrero, to discuss all of their concerns. The other committee members agreed with Castro’s suggestion.


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