NMI to receive emergency federal funds for education

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Wednesday announced that the U.S. Department of Education has informed him that the CNMI will receive emergency funding for education-related expenditures under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act.

The governor received a letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Tuesday regarding the additional funds.

“Initially, the CNMI, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands were not on the list of emergency education allocations to the territories,” the governor said.

Now, $153.75 million has been awarded to the four territories based on student-age population and poverty levels, with approximately 35% going to Guam, 30% to American Samoa, 18% to the CNMI, and 17% to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ralph DLG Torres

This additional federal funding for the CNMI amounts to $27,940,945, with $5,588,189 allocated for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, and $22,352,756 for the Public School System.

In her letter to Governor Torres, Secretary DeVos said the USDOE “will not micromanage how you spend these funds, but I encourage you, at a time when many school boards, superintendents, and institutions of higher education have had to close their brick and mortar campuses for the balance of the school year, to focus these resources on ensuring that all students continue to learn most likely through some form of remote learning.”

She added, “[These students] and their families are depending on your leadership to ensure that they do not fall behind.”

In order to receive these emergency funds as soon as possible, the USDOE has required the administration to complete a brief certification and agreement application, which can be signed digitally and submitted in PDF format via email, the education secretary stated.

She said once the PDF is received, it will be processed by the USDOE, and the funds will be set aside for payment to the Commonwealth within three business days. The administration will then be able to avail itself of these emergency funds using the USDOE G5 system.

The governor expressed his gratitude to President Donald J. Trump, DeVos, and the Commonwealth’s federal partners on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. Department of Education “for their commitment to responding to my requests, and for being true partners as we combat this crisis.”

He added, “We need to hold all who are responsible for helping our community navigate this crisis accountable. An error was made during the formulation of this critical aid to PSS and Northern Marianas College, and has disenfranchised our students in the CNMI. Congress and our delegate must correct this inequality in benefits. Students in the CNMI should not be treated any less important than those throughout the States and Puerto Rico.”

The governor said he will work with Board of Education Chairwoman Janice Tenorio, Commissioner of Education Dr. Alfred Ada, NMC Board of Regents Chairman Charles V. Cepeda, and NMC Interim President Frankie Eliptico “to ensure that funding gets to our students, teachers, and staff for distance learning resources, as well as addressing the Covid-19 budget shortfall to pay for salaries and operations.”

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