CNMI governor plans to appeal FEMA rejection

CNMI Governor Ralph Torres (file photo)

The CNMI Government plans to submit an appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, after FEMA rejected the CNMI’s request for a waiver of the local match required for COVID-related grants.

FEMA said no to CNMI Governor Ralph Torres’ request just before the U.S. government transitioned into the new Biden administration.

During the CNMI Governor’s media briefing today, Torres confirmed that the government will be making that appeal soon.

“We do have a very good working relationship with Robert Fenton, who is the acting administrator of FEMA. I am optimistic that with our issues and success rate, we will be putting out a good justification on the appeal letter that will be going out soon,” Torres said.

He added: “We need to do what we need to do…we understand their process and that is across the board.” Torres said he is confident that Fenton knows ‘what’s going on in the CNMI, that the island is still recovering from typhoon Yutu and now, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not warranted

The Governor made his waiver request to FEMA in March of last year.

“Based on our review of all of the information available, it has been determined that the increased level of funding you have requested is not warranted. Therefore, I must inform you that your request for a cost share adjustment for this major disaster declaration is denied,” wrote Robert Fenton, who is currently performing the duties of FEMA. Administrator.

Previously, Fenton was the Administrator for FEMA’s Region IX and has been directly involved with the Commonwealth’s recovery from the 2018 typhoons, as well as the coronavirus.

In his March 2020 letter asking for local cost share waiver, Governor Torres said, “the additional burden of paying the non-federal shared cost when current locally-expended resources in response to COVID-19 have already exceeded the CNMI’s available operating capital will result in curtailment of critical public services.”

The Governor specifically mentioned the possibility of defunding the police, and cutting funding for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the hospital, the Judiciary and Legislature, and curtailing payment to for utility services to government facilities without help from the Trump administration.

If it chooses to do so, the Commonwealth does have 30 days in which to appeal the decision to the incoming Biden administration, according to a release from the Office of Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.

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Louella Losinio
Louella Losinio is PNC's managing editor. She was a former reporter for the Marianas Variety (Guam Edition) and the Guam Daily Post, former editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Pacific Island Times,. As a freelance writer, she has contributed content to various regional and local publications such as the Marianas Business Journal, Guam Business Magazine, The Guamanian, and Island Times. Aside from her decade-long experience in the media and print industry, Louella has experience in technical writing, education, and nonprofit management.