Federal government awards $2.5M to CNMI 

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(PNC file photo)

The Trump Administration announced $2,571,650 in fiscal year 2020 grant funding to support the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs’ (OIA) Technical Assistance Program. Funds will be used to strengthen firefighting capacity, bolster law enforcement, fund a prevailing wage study, and generally support government operations and public services on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota in the CNMI.

“The Secretary and I are pleased to support the CNMI with funds that will help a wide variety of public services – ranging from firefighting and law enforcement, to mammogram services for women, cultural and natural resource protection, and replacing typhoon-damaged trees in the territory,” said Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech. “Through the annual funding support that we receive from Congress every year, OIA is able to support the CNMI and all the insular areas in ways that a measurable difference in people’s lives.”

The CNMI government will receive the $2.5M for these initiatives:

  • CNMI Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (DFEMS) – $623,563 will be awarded to train firefighters and to acquire breathing apparatus equipment and supplies.
    • $507,493 will be used to train six cadets each from Saipan, Tinian, and Rota and through the Cadet Employment & Resiliency Program, make them full-time DFEMS firefighting personnel.
    • $116,070 will be used to acquire a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) compressor and filling station with related equipment for DFEMS. The SCBA station will be used to refill breathing apparatus cylinders and provide an uninterrupted supply of quality, clean, and breathable air for fire ground operations, hazardous material incidents, and rescue operations on Saipan.
  • CNMI Department of Public Safety – $430,828 will be used to fund a Community Oriented Policing Project intended to increase the capacity of local law enforcement through the employment of new cadets or the rehiring of retired/former police officers. The Department hopes to increase the ranks of new officers, school resource officers, and patrol officers to strengthen public safety.
  • Commonwealth Health Care Corporation (CHCC) – $334,360 will be used to train the CHCC Radiology Department team and upgrade outdated diagnostic imaging equipment with a full field digital mammography system with tomosynthesis, meeting requirements of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The CNMI is the only American College of Radiology accredited, and FDA-MQSA2 certified mammography facility, administering approximately 80 mammograms monthly, and approximately 950 exams yearly. Funds will also cover shipping, software, and required licensing.
  • Saipan Mayor’s Office – $232,706 will be used to fill bolster diminished staff as a result of recent budget cuts and declining public revenue. Funds will help fund staff positions in themayor’s office necessary for maintaining cleanliness and upkeep of roadsides and public areas in local communities.
  • Marianas Visitors Authority – $202,598 will be used to purchase new hardware and software necessary to update and improve existing arrivals data collection and processing methods at the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA). The MVA is working closely with the CNMI Department of Finance’s, Division of Customs Service, and other partners to ensure more efficient and robust visitor data collection and analysis. The MVA typically processes a range of 41,000 to 50,000 visitor arrival forms each month, depending on the season. The upgrade will enable the territory to improve data processing and analysis, providing better insight for employee hiring, product development, and delivery to improve the visitor experience in the CNMI.
  • Commonwealth Zoning Board – $153,605 will be used to enhance the administration and management of land use by digitizing and automating zoning operations. Updating the technological and zoning capacity of the office will be critical to support local commercial, and private land-use zoning needs throughout the territory, especially following natural disasters. Funding will also be used for equipment, travel, and geographic information system licensing. 
  • CNMI Department of Commerce, Statistical Division – $146,826 will be used to conduct a prevailing wage study. The study will help determine the types of occupations that exist and measure occupation-specific wage rates for each of the identified occupations, which is required to comply with the CNMI Workforce Act or Public Law 115-218. The study will also provide federal officials with statistical data on the latest industry and wage information of all occupations in the CNMI economy, which are necessary for reviewing and making determinations on CW-1 visa requests, and H-1B and H-2B labor certification applications.
  • Rota Department of Community and Cultural Affairs – $101,613 will be used for the Rota Historical Sites Maintenance and Improvement Project established to safeguard Rota’s historical sites such as ancient Chamorro village sites, a latte stone quarry, a cave with pictographs, and World War II historical sites located throughout the northern and southern part of Rota. Funds will be used to secure and enhance selected cultural and historical sites by installing perimeter fencing and providing corrosion-resistant interpretive signage, translated into several languages for tourists. Eleven of the sites identified for protection are on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources – $120,117 will be used to fund an invasive species coordinator position in the CNMI and to fund a tree-planting and beatification project along two of Saipan’s main roads.
    • $96,793 will be used to fund the position of an invasive species coordinator to carry-out and implement the CNMI Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan. The goal is to prevent the introduction of new invasive species into and throughout the islands and to mitigate those that have already established themselves in the CNMI. Funding is limited to one year. 
    • $23,324 will be used for equipment and supplies necessary to propagate and replace the iconic Flame trees (Delonix regia), that once lined Beach Road and Airport Road, but were destroyed during Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018. This iconic tree is celebrated every year during the eponymous Flame Tree Festival, an annual tourist attraction. It will be replanted along with the Moluccan ironwood (Intsia bijuga), known locally as Trongkon Ifit, and of important use locally in preventing erosion, woodcarving, canoe building, and home construction.
  • CNMI Department of Public Works – $79,015 will be used to acquire hardware and software necessary to provide advanced technological support for architectural and engineering projects and services in Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, all three islands in the CNMI.
  • CNMI Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) – $77,745 will be used to train personnel in OVR to become specialists and experts in Social Security Administration retirements and benefit planning. Training will include professional standards and code of conduct, effective communication, Social Security Administration benefits, and related regulations governing retirement planning, employment, and eligibility for benefits.
  • Tinian Mayor’s Office – $68,674 will be used to repair, revitalize, and replace obsolete and condemned playground equipment at the Tinian Children’s Park. Funding will be used to purchase maintenance equipment, playground equipment, perimeter fencing for security, and related supplies.

The OIA Technical Assistance Program is made available each year by Congress to support priorities in the U.S. territories and the freely associated states. For more information on grant assistance provided through OIA, please visit: https://www.doi.gov/oia/financial-assistance.

(News Release from the Office of Insular Affairs)

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