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Kilili asks governor to provide more details about NMI finances

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U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan is asking Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to provide more details to the U.S. senators about the CNMI finances.

Kilili said the U.S. Senate majority leader has expressed skepticism about how state and territorial governments manage their finances.

In his letter on Tuesday, Kilili  thanked the governor for the responses of the administration to the questions of U.S. senators about how the CNMI government is managing the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kilili submitted the governor’s replies to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

He said the information provided by the CNMI “is especially important now when the Senate is preparing a response to the HEROES Act or H.R. 6800, which the [U.S.] House passed on May 15. The bill would provide about $2.9 billion to the Marianas to help with coronavirus response,” Kilili said.

However, he added, the Republican Senate majority leader has suggested that state and territorial governments have mismanaged their finances, and thus, should not receive additional aid from the federal government.

For that reason, “I would like to ask you for more detail about the Commonwealth’s finances to bolster the case for additional aid,” Kilili told the governor.

In his response to the U.S. senators’ questions, Torres said the $36.2 million in direct aid that the CNMI government received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act covered expenses not provided by the CNMI fiscal year 2020 budget. He is asking for “additional resources.”

The governor also informed the U.S. senators about the CNMI Fiscal Reform Summit recommendation to furlough 500 government employees.

Kilili asked the governor to “quantify how much additional resources you required and how, specifically, those resources would be used.”

Kilili said the governor did not mention if he followed through the CNMI Fiscal Reform Summit recommendation to furlough government employees.

Kilili said continuation of federal assistance to the unemployed is one of the provisions of the HEROES Act, “but is again a matter of resistance from Senate Republicans, it would be useful to know exactly how many CNMI government employees you have furloughed.”

“As well, it would be useful to know exactly how many individuals in the Marianas have applied for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provided by the CARES Act and how many have been approved for this assistance,” Kilili told the governor.

In his reply to the U.S. senators’ questions, the governor said his administration had allocated $4.8 million to senators,  House members, the Saipan mayor’s office, the Tinian mayor’s office, the Rota mayor’s office, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., the Division of Revenue and Taxation, the Office of  the Attorney General and the CNMI judiciary.

Kilili wants to know how much each of these entities received.

He said, “Many municipalities nationwide have complained that the relief funds have not trickled down to them.”

The HEROES Act, he added, responds to this problem with direct aid to municipalities, including about $29 million for Rota, Tinian and the Northern Islands.

 

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