Saipan lawmakers OK funding bill for Karidat, NMC, NMHC

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THE Saipan and Northern Islands Delegation on Tuesday passed a local bill authored by House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao to provide funds to Karidat, Northern Marianas College, and the Northern Marianas Housing Corp.

House Local Bill 21-48, which now goes to the governor, will “appropriate funds specifically allotted to the Third Senatorial District under Public Law 20-59.”

Attao, in an interview, said the funds amount to over $1 million.

In 1991, he added, P.L. 7-31 was enacted to provide within-grade pay increases for government employees.

Unfortunately, he said, the central government did not have the funds for the pay hikes, so the local delegations had to fund them.

“We came up with what is now Public Law 20-59 to reimburse the second [Tinian] and third [Saipan] senatorial districts,” he added.

H.L.B. 21-48 proposes to allocate to Karidat, NMC, and NMHC the funds that had been reimbursed to Saipan.

With these funds, Karidat will be able to continue providing food and rental assistance to the most vulnerable community members of the Commonwealth especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Attao said the local bill will also aid NMC, which has yet to receive funds from the general appropriations for FY 2020; and NMHC with home loans and rental assistance.

“There are a lot of our residents here in the third senatorial district who are having difficulties paying their rent because of the furloughs and whatnot. Whatever the case may be, this will be able to assist them. They can go through the process of NMHC, since NMHC already has a breakdown of how to run this program,” Attao said.

“This will be a revolving account program for NMHC. Just because they help these individuals, that does not mean that NMHC does not have to pay it back, because there are other [forms of] assistance coming in,” he added, emphasizing that the agency is still anticipating receiving federal assistance.

“The main gist of the legislation is we were finally able to find some money with our delegation to be able to assist our people. I know it's nothing compared to the stimulus package coming from the outside, but we also need to be creative enough at our local level to create our own stimulus package,” the speaker said.

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