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USDA lauds OVR for grant award

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THE U.S. Department of Agriculture congratulated the CNMI Office of Vocational Rehabilitation during a virtual awarding ceremony on Friday for successfully applying for two grant awards totaling $86,000.

USDA approved the applications for the $50,000 community facilities grant and the $36,000 economic impact grant after OVR provided the department with, among other things, information that OVR is a separate CNMI government entity no longer administered by the defunct Department of Public Health.

Authored by then-Rep. Jesus Attao, and signed into law by then-Gov. Juan N. Babauta, Public Law 14-81 transferred OVR from the Department of Public Health to the Office of the Governor in July 2005.

In April 2007, then-Speaker Oscar M. Babauta authored P.L. 15-53 to remove the term “vocational rehabilitation” from statutes pertaining to the Department of Public Health administration.

During the awarding ceremony via Zoom on Friday, OVR Executive Director Maryann Borja-Arriola thanked USDA Hawaii State Director Brenda Iokepa-Moses and USDA Rural Business and Community Programs Specialist Anthony Barcinas for helping the CNMI OVR serve the local community better.

CNMI Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Executive Director Maryann Borja-Arriola, second left, gestures as she speaks during a videoconference with U.S Department of Agriculture Hawaii State Director Brenda Iokepa-Moses and USDA Rural Development Business and Community Programs Specialist Anthony Barcinas. Also in photo are OVR employment specialist, Tiava To’omata, left, OVR case service manager, Caroline Agulto, second right and OVR administrative operations specialist, Arlene Reyes, right. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

She also thanked the CNMI Legislature, Rep. Edmund Villagomez and House legal counsel Joe Taijeron  for assisting her in obtaining critical information that justified OVR’s eligibility for the grants; the offices of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan for their support; as well as the Office of Grants Management and Bridgette Camacho from the CNMI Social Security Administration Office.

She said OVR will continue to  work hard in reaching out to people with disability especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

As for the grants, she said they will be used to buy a new office vehicle and upgrade OVR’s computer system and other necessary equipment.

Also joining the videoconference were Katrina Punzalan representing the office of Congressman Sablan, Rep. Edmund S. Villagomez, House legal counsel Joe Taijeron, OVR case service manager Caroline Agulto, OVR administrative operations specialist Arlene M. Reyes and OVR employment specialist Tiava A. To’omata.


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