CNMI Press Secretary: “This is a very, very difficult spot for our government to be in”

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The Press Secretary for CNMI Governor Ralph Torres, Kevin Bautista, has issued the following statement in response to the government’s decision to “terminate” all unclassified civil service positions that are not federally funded and to “furlough” a sufficient number of other classified civil service employees for one year.

Statement from Press Secretary Kevin Bautista:

“This is a very, very difficult spot for our government to be in. Our government is working diligently through the CNMI Department of Labor to get official confirmation on the eligibility of our government employees to be on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This government is working very hard to take care of its employees that will be getting furloughed and terminated as a result of the lack of economic activity in the CNMI and the lack of funding that is in our government coffers.”

“As with the rest of the world suffering from the global pandemic, the CNMI government is at an unprecedented level that it has never seen before.”

“Fiscal Year 2020 started off really positive, with some strong collections in the first quarter of the fiscal year. We were looking to make 2020 a strong year for the Commonwealth, even as we continue to recover from Super Typhoon Yutu. Tourism steadily rebounded in the first month in the first quarter with things looking really positive for the CNMI to get back to a level before Yutu.”

“Then as the COVID-19 outbreak started in late 2019, Governor Torres took proactive steps to stop China flights in January. But as this pandemic worsened to where we are today, the government has made difficult decisions, from closing down CNMI tourism in the interest of public health.”

“Our economy is at a standstill, at a very unprecedented level that we have never seen before in the history of the CNMI, in the history of this country, where the economy in states and territories have essentially stopped because social distancing is the only factor that we can control in combating this pandemic as we continue to wait for vaccines and medical treatment for COVID-19.”

“With no economy, and with the reserves used to pay the upfront costs to expedite the CNMI recovery after Super Typhoon Yutu, our government is working very hard to keep services up.”

“Out of all 55 state and territorial governments, the CNMI is the only territorial government in the country that is making furloughs and cuts in the manner that the local government is doing, reducing the overall government personnel costs by 50%.”

“No other state or territorial government is doing that. We are an island economy subject to the external forces of our global economy, and this global pandemic has negatively impacted the overall world economy.”

“Under Governor Torres’ leadership, this government will continue to work hard to protect the public health and well-being of every person. We will continue to pursue assistance for all furloughed government employees and private sector employees. We’re in this together, and we need to continue to work together to overcome this virus.”