Except for Puerto Rico, territories not included among federal education relief fund recipients

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THE CNMI, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not on the list of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief or GEER Fund recipients. The $2.95 billion fund is authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act.

Among the territories, Puerto Rico alone is on the list and will receive over $47 million.

Asked for comment, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Camacho Sablan said it is “most likely that the [U.S. Department of Education] has not yet decided how to ‘fairly’ allocate the funds among the four [territories].”

He added, “We have offered a proposal that is most fair (Title I allocation) and is set forth in a statutory language I had inserted into the [Every Student Succeeds Act] two years ago.”

He said, “If the USDOE decides to allocate based on needs, then there is no greater need than for the Northern Mariana Islands; no other jurisdiction has had to furlough its teachers.”

If the USDOE is trying to use other data, he added, “then they will need to analyze the data that could be sourced solely from each jurisdiction and could be based on faulty data collection methodologies. Reconciling fairly those four separate data into one is akin to apples and oranges comparison.”

Kilili said he is working with the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, of which he is a member, “in urging the USDOE to announce the availability of funds so [the CNMI Public School System] and the four jurisdictions could submit applications for the money. Last Thursday, we got the ‘by next week’ response. Just as we did the week before last. And the week before that. And the week before that. And so we continue to work seeking a fair answer by providing the best solution already established by law. Besides working with the EdLabor committee, we are also in continuing communication with Mr. Thornburg of PSS.”

In an interview on Tuesday, PSS federal programs manager Tim Thornburgh said the school system continues to work with Kilili’s office to ensure that PSS will get emergency federal funds.

“We are hopeful that the allocation of the Education Stabilization Funds for the insular areas will be issued in 10 days,” Thornburgh said.

In related news, on his Facebook page, Congressman Kilili posted the following:

“Governor Torres claimed recently that the $36 million the Commonwealth received was from suggestions that came from meetings of the National Governors Association….

“[But] Democrats in the House and Senate have always wanted to both include, increase, funds to assist state and local (and at the combined written and requests of the insular areas members, to territorial) governments.

“Republican majorities in the Senate, the White House, and Republicans in the House have opposed this effort at every step in the negotiations towards the (now four) legislation to combat Covid-19.

“President Trump has stated his support in principle to include assistance to state, territorial, local and tribal governments in CARES 2 legislation that is now being negotiated. There is yet no agreement on how much funding will go to this program item in CARES 2. House Democrats have put forth a suggestion to fund the assistance by as much as $1 trillion.

“Just restating the facts and setting the record straight.

“And since there are members who expressed their disagreement as to why territorial governments received as much as $700 per capita while state governments received an average of $340 per capita, we shall continue to fight that the Northern Marianas (and the other territorial) governments are included for as much funding as possible.”

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