The CNMI submitted the plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the Commonwealth’s unmet recovery following Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu which hit the three main islands in September and October 2018.
“A lot of long hours, and hard work went into this action plan, which had to undergo several revisions over the course of the last two years to ensure priority projects were identified for our community,” the governor said in a statement as his administration extended its appreciation to HUD and other federal partners for working with the CNMI.
The governor likewise commended NMHC Corporate Director Jesse S. Palacios, Deputy Corporate Director Zenie P. Mafnas, and their staff for their collaboration with the executive branch in ensuring that the needs of the CNMI are addressed following the typhoons.
Moreover, the administration thanked the governor’s authorized representative for Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu, Virginia Villagomez, and Public Assistance Officer Patrick C. Guerrero for their efforts; and the 21st Legislature led by Senate President Victor B. Hocog and Speaker Blas. Jonathan “BJ” T. Attao for their input.
“This is a great win for the CNMI as we continue to build a stronger Marianas,” the governor said.
Lt. Gov. Palacios, for his part, said, “Typhoon recovery has been at the top of our priorities since taking office together in 2019, and together with NMHC, we did our due diligence to make sure we fulfilled all the requirements of this grant and that our priority projects fit the criteria set forth by HUD.”
He added, “This is a huge accomplishment for our community, and it is because of the hard work and collaboration of federal and local partners coming together for our people.”
Governor Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios pose for a photo with lawmakers, Northern Marianas Housing Corp. and other officials and staff following the announcement of a $244 million grant awarded to the Commonwealth on Friday. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol
“A lot of projects will see groundbreakings very soon, and we look forward to progressing within our recovery,” he added
In February of last year, NMHC and the Torres-Palacios administration began work on the block grant action plan.
NMHC Corporate Director Jesse S. Palacios said the housing corporation reached out to each entity included in the action plan to determine how much funding is needed for each body.
He said the estimates received from each department and agency were higher than what was actually received.
NMHC identified a list of community priorities and projects that would address several unmet needs pertaining to housing, infrastructure, and economic recovery.
The draft of the action plan was revised a number of times in order to accommodate new priorities that fit the grant criteria.
The administration, and the NMHC board of directors signed off on HUD-required financial certifications and forms.
On Aug. 31, NMHC officially submitted the CDBG-DR Action Plan to HUD for review and approval.
“NMHC is very fortunate to have the continued support of the Torres-Palacios administration and our board of directors as it truly enhances the process in our agency’s efforts in bringing in $244 million in CDBG-DR funds needed to address the unmet recovery needs of the CNMI following the onslaught of Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu,” NMHC Corporate Director Jesse S. Palacios said.
He believes that this is the largest federal grant provided to the CNMI in recent history, adding that it is the first time for the Commonwealth to receive CDBG-DR aid.
Based on the Federal Register notice, HUD had 45 days from the date NMHC submitted the action plan to approve or disapprove the said plan.
“Governor Torres and Lt. Governor Palacios understood the urgency of injecting CDBG-DR aid into the CNMI to help low- to moderate-income families rebuild their homes, address public infrastructure unmet needs, and revitalize our economy,” the NMHC corporate director said.
He said part of the grant will provide disaster recovery funds to the Marianas Visitors Authority for destination marketing and promotion activities.
“Tourism is our primary economic driver, which is why NMHC sought for a tourism waiver from HUD. Funding for tourism is generally not an eligible activity,” he said.
He added that the housing corporation has been in constant communication with the administration sharing updates with the governor, lt. governor, and the NMHC board of directors and seeking local support, whether it be in the form of a line of credit from the Commonwealth Development Authority needed to address pre-disaster recovery activities.
This included hiring the required CDBG-DR staff needed for program implementation and designation of public lands for construction of new homes that will be financed by DR funds.
Following the submission of the action plan, the housing corporation leadership had been in constant communication with the HUD Honolulu and San Francisco offices reviewing the action plan and improving certain sections.
A few days before final transmittal of the plan to HUD Headquarters in Washington, D.C., NMHC received recommendations for approval from the HUD San Francisco Field Office and from the deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Policy Development and Research, which reviewed the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity aspects of the action plan.
Then, early Friday morning, HUD notified NMHC via email that the CDBG-DR Action Plan was approved by HUD headquarters and aptly sent the grant agreement for the governor’s signature and execution.
“Lt. Governor Palacios and I have already instructed our departments and agencies to support NMHC and to prioritize the execution of these projects,” the governor said.
“We will be implementing a whole-of-government approach for our recovery to make sure our islands are stronger and more resilient against future disasters.”
Of the $244 million, 46% will go toward housing, 43% to infrastructure, 5% to administration costs, 4% to economic development, and 2% to planning.
This amounts to over $113.3 million toward housing, more than $105.8 million to infrastructure, over $12 million for administration costs, roughly $8.6 million to economic development, and less than $4 million for planning.
Housing costs are broken down even further with 36% going toward single family new construction development, 32% to affordable rental housing development, and 32% to homeowner rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Costs of infrastructure include 54% of funds going toward public facilities, 34% to utilities, 8% to roads, and 4% to port facilities.
The CNMI CDBG-DR Action Plan is available for public viewing at website at https://www.nmhcgov.net/default.asp?secID=3
A six-year timeline from the date of the execution of the grant agreement was given to the Commonwealth to spend the $243,946,000.