ELIGIBLE residents should apply for the rental assistance program, CNMI Office of Grants Management & State Clearinghouse or OGM Administrator Epi Cabrera said.

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The program’s funding source is the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

"We should not have any issues issuing money to the landlord,” Cabrera added. “We are poised to roll out this program. We are not going to take our time on this.”

Cabrera said the only issue that OGM might face is the lack of documentation from either the tenants or the landlords.

He said some landlords are operating their rental properties without a business license or are not paying taxes.

Approval will only be made after the tenant and landlord have certified the required documents, Cabrera said.

There is a pre-application process, he added. “We will screen the applicants and we will have face-to-face interview with all the clients [who] are eligible.”

Currently, he said, the program is offered to U.S. citizens and qualified aliens, including long-term CNMI residents.

He said Freely Associated States citizens are not eligible unless they also have U.S. citizenship.

As for individuals on CW-1 permits, the OGM administrator said they are still waiting for guidelines from the federal grantor and the U.S. delegate’s office to ascertain eligibility.

“We have not received any clarification; we are still waiting for information,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera said his office is also looking into the eligibility of households that have minor U.S. citizens. 

“We are also looking for clarification and guidance regarding CW tenants whose landlords are U.S. citizens,” he added.

On its Facebook page, OGM stated Saturday that 1,450 emergency rental assistance pre-applications had been distributed and 74 completed pre-applications had been received by the agency.

It also stated that the applications for the emergency rental assistance program will no longer be available for pickup at the administration building on Capital Hill.

Starting today, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, applications will be available at the Gov. Pedro Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe.

Applications may be picked up or dropped off daily beginning Monday, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Cabrera said approval notices may be issued as early as the second week of March.

According to OGM:

• The verification of employment supporting document requirement is only needed if the applicant is employed. If unemployed, a copy of a Nutrition Assistance Program ID  or proof of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits will suffice. The intent of this requirement is not to discourage those without jobs from applying.

• PUA recipients are eligible for rental assistance.

Reporter

Bryan Manabat studied criminal justice at Northern Marianas College. He covers the community, tourism, business, police and court beats.

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