Governor: Public funds are spent to protect public health

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres said on Wednesday that the CNMI government is spending public funds “diligently and with transparency to protect public health.”

In a press videoconference, the governor said his administration continues to have a good working relationship with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There had been some issues and challenges with FEMA reimbursements experienced in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yutu, but the governor said the process now with the Covid-19 pandemic is different.

“We have already learned from those challenges,” he said referring to the FEMA reimbursement process.

In applying for FEMA reimbursements for the CNMI funds spent in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the governor said, “We still had a lot of definitions to clarify.”

The governor said the CNMI government continues to spend local funds to protect the public from Covid-19.

“So it is not a matter of whether the [expenditures] were reimbursable or not. It is really about the decision that was made [in] the best interest of the public under the [emergency] declaration,” he added.

 “We have been working with FEMA diligently and with transparency on the products and supplies that were purchased. We are confident that those purchases are reimbursable.”

For his part, Finance Sec. David DLG Atalig said aside from FEMA assistance, there are other federal funds that will be available to the CNMI under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act.

“We are excited about these opportunities and other assistance from the federal government in these trying times,” Atalig said.

Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, for his part, thanked U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan for the federal funding that the CNMI has been receiving.

Palacios said Kilili “has been working so hard in our nation’s capital to make sure that the CNMI receive as much as funding as it needs to protect the public from Covid-19 and recover from the economic crisis.”

Palacios added, “I would like to thank our delegate, Kilili, for making sure that our people get all these resources coming from the federal government, and that gratitude comes both from me and the governor.”

Regarding the reopening of the economy, especially the tourism industry, the governor said: “We want to start opening up business activities and lifting the curfew is the first step. But are we ready for tourists? Are the hotels ready? Are their employees ready?  That’s the first part of it. The second part is, how do we test tourists when they start coming in? Do we quarantine them? We still have a long way before we can open the NMI again as a tourist destination, but there is already a plan for it.”


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