REGARDING the over $480 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the CNMI from the federal government, Senate President Jude U. Hofschneider has asked the administration to consider decentralizing the process in implementing ARPA-funded projects and programs.
He said mayors of the municipalities should be allowed to create their own teams as opposed to having just one team on Saipan handling the ARPA funds for all of the municipalities.
“Naturally, it will take time. There will be a lot of required signatures and a lot of reviews. We really can’t afford [a lengthy process] because of the timeline that they’ve given us,” he said, referring to the federal government.
At the same time, he commended the Torres-Palacios administration for a “great presentation” on its ARPA spending plan Friday at the Crowne Plaza Resort.
“We thank and we appreciate the administration for a very good presentation,” Hofschneider said. “We really need to work closely between the two houses and the administration to try and craft out how to approach this, given the timeframe that we also have to deal with the budget process.”
During the presentation, Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig said more guidelines will be provided by the federal government in July.
“Once we get those guidelines, then we’ll go from there,” Hofschneider said.
In his remarks during the presentation, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the CNMI needs better infrastructure and more funding for schools, the judicial system and healthcare.
He said the CNMI must also meet its other financial obligations and the constitutional mandate to pay the deficit.
He wants the government to restore within-grade pay increases to employees to support their professional growth and development; restore the 80-hour work schedule; recall furloughed employees; prioritize local funding to support full pension benefits for retirees; and provide greater access to quality homes for the planned establishment of 2,000 new homestead lots.