In the CNMI, they’re already using and distributing their ARPA money

From left, FEMA Deputy Regional Administrator Bill Roche, Honorable CNMI Governor Ralph DLG. Torres, and Defense Coordinating Officer Commander Harry Elliott. (file photo)

CNMI governor Ralph Torres says that his government has already begun using American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Torres said his administration has already begun to spend American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds even though the U.S. Treasury Department has not finalized the rules yet.

Currently, only the final interim rules have been issued.

The US Treasury Department is waiting to gather feedback from all jurisdictions so it can integrate that input into the final rules.

Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has said repeatedly that she wants to wait for the final rules to avoid having to pay back money for programs that are not authorized.

However, other local lawmakers aren’t compelled by her reasoning.

Republican senators, in particular, are pressuring the governor to release ARPA funds so various aid programs can be lifted.

However, although his government is already using ARPA funds, Torres cautioned that the CNMI is a different jurisdiction from Guam.

“I guess I can only speak on what programs we have and what our approach is because I think every state is different. But for sure, the minute the ARPA funds were passed, finance got a whole team together and turned in our proposal. And I think it was approved soon after. We’ve been distributing ARPA funds across the programs from municipalities, from the mayors of Rota, Tinian, and here in Saipan. So yeah, we’ve been using our ARPA funds and we’re very blessed for that,” Torres said in an interview with NewsTalk K57’s Patti Arroyo.

Torres also spoke about his government’s spin on local stimulus payments.

“There are so many different approaches, and we’re trying to approach it where there’s equity and to put the money here in the CNMI. So what we have is a credit card that you, if you’re a taxpayer, you get $500, with dependents. This credit card…every business has a merchant number. So you can only use your card to those merchants who are registered in the CNMI. So you can take your card when you go to Rota, you can spend money there. You can go to Tinian and you can spend money there. Or you can come to Saipan and you can pay your utility bill, you can go to wholesale, so any business that has a merchant number, you can use that card,” Torres said.