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Executive branch to implement 64-hour work schedule and cost-containment measures; retirees’ pensions remain unaffected

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(Office of the Governor) — The executive branch announced on Friday that it will implement a 64-hour work schedule beginning on March 15, 2020 and reinforce ongoing cost-containment measures. CNMI retirees’ pensions remain unaffected.
Under Directive 2020-002, business hours for departments and agencies under the executive branch will be closed during every Friday beginning March 20, 2020 until further notice.
The directive is a result of lingering economic effects of Super Typhoon Yutu and the substantial adverse impact of the current novel coronavirus outbreak in China. While there is no presence of novel coronavirus in the CNMI, temporary suspensions of flights from China have led to a significant loss of economic activity and revenue.
“This outbreak has essentially brought our tourism industry to a standstill for an undetermined period, causing a severe disruption in revenue and affecting many of our local businesses and residents accordingly,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. “As a government, we have to adapt and make adjustments for this unforeseen circumstance.”
The Secretary of Finance has formally recommended to revise the annual revenue estimate for FY 2020 by a reduction of 20.7 percent and budgetary resources by 28.3 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year. This reduces revenue estimates for FY 2020 by $48,387,717.
Both the executive and legislative branches of government are now working together to implement these reductions. The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Attorney General have been directed to work with all departments and agencies to ensure that all civil, excepted and exempted service employees are properly notified and advised of the modified work schedule.
“These are challenging times, but we understand that almost every economy in the Asia-Pacific region are experiencing revenue downturns. This decision to reduce work hours are attributed to factors outside of our control,” said Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios.
“In order to keep essential public services like education and public safety intact, we had to lay all options on the table and determine our priorities as a government. We have had to make cuts of this size in order to protect our retirees’ pensions, which provide for their basic needs. Since 2015, we have kept that commitment to ensure their full pensions, and we will continue to meet that as much as we can,” said Governor Torres.
Lt. Governor Palacios noted that it is unfortunate that certain members in the community are spreading rumors of a cut to pensions, but he indicated that it is not the case.
“Unfortunately, there are people out there that have been painting a picture that we made that decision. That’s not the case. We continue to be mindful to give retirees their full pensions, but at the end of the day, we continue to look at our priorities with the limited resources we now have as a result of this coronavirus outbreak,” he added.
“While we understand that public health is at the top of our priorities, financial recovery is being done, so that we can eventually revert back to a normal work schedule. Lt. Governor Palacios and I appreciate all our government employees for their patience during these financial challenges and for their continued commitment to serve the people of the Marianas,” said Governor Torres.
In addition to a reduction in work hours, the executive branch will be reinforcing cost-containment measures through hiring freezes, overtime and travel restrictions, fuel and utility conservation, and government procurement.
“The executive branch together with the Legislature have determined a collective approach to addressing these challenges head-on, because this is what a responsible government should do in challenging times. We will continue to work to promote the Marianas as a world-class destination to our other source markets, economic and financial recovery are at the forefront of our policy initiatives, so that we can return to normalcy,” said Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Palacios.

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