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By Jayvee Vallejera

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 4, 2002 – Saipan Tribune)---Of the possible $79.44 million in federal grants that were open to the Northern Marianas in 1999, the CNMI government only managed to tap an estimated $65.45 million, leaving some $13.99 million in untapped funds.

Based on a Federal Grants Review conducted by Fiscal Planning Services Inc. covering the four U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas and the Virgin Islands—all four territories received a total of $581.5 million in actual grant awards from the federal government in Fiscal Year 1999.

The U.S. Virgin Islands received the largest chunk of this amount, at $203.16 million; followed by Guam, $196.88 million; American Samoa, $116.04 million; and the Commonwealth, $65.45 million.

Fiscal Planning Services Inc. estimates that at least $581.5 million in grant awards remained available but were untapped by the four territories. These included $13.99 million in potential grant awards that CNMI government could have received at that time.

According to Rep. William S. Torres, this underscores the fact that quite a number of federal dollars remain untapped by the Commonwealth government, which could otherwise be used to shore up the dwindling reserves of the government.

Torres provided this paper a copy of the grants review documents, which he had recently received from Office of Insular Affairs Acting Director Nikolao Pula.

In his letter, Pula said the study is an extensive review of federal grant programs in March 2000, showing how much the CNMI received in federal grants in FY 1999, and seeks to identify additional sources of potential federal grants that the CNMI may be eligible for, but which have not been used.

These untapped grants include several programs under the Corporation for National and Community Service, amounting to a total of $65,000; Department of Agriculture, $457,000; Department of Commerce, $2.75 million; Department of Energy, $313,000; Department of Health and Human Services, $211,000; Department of Justice, $328,000; Department of Labor, $52,000; and the National Archives and Records Administration, $134,000.

Torres yesterday said he will be communicating soon with OIA Field Representative Jeffrey Schorr to secure the OIA’s assistance in enabling the CNMI tap all potential federal grants.

"I will also be sending him a letter to ask the OIA on its specific action plan on how to implement the Gross Island Product measure that his department would be assisting us, including timelines for doing so," said Torres.

Another issue that he will be following up with Schorr is an issue that was not addressed in Pula’s letter -- his appeal for assistance at the State Department in getting the CNMI become a member in international organizations.

"I will be communicating soon with Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly of the State Department to see how they can help us along these lines," Torres said.

At the same time, with the favorable responses of the American embassies in Japan and Seoul in promoting the Commonwealth, Torres said he will also be writing to the Department of Commerce on how the CNMI can access its resources in promoting the CNMI as an outbound tourist and investment destination.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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