MARIANAS TO GET $99 MILLION IN U.S. FEDERAL GRANTS

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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 4) – The Northern Marianas will receive more than US$99 million in various grants from the United States government this fiscal year 2008, including those guaranteed under the islands’ 702 Covenant Funding and Compact Impact reimbursement.

[PIR Editors Note: Back in February, in a written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, CNMI Lieutenant Governor Timothy Villagomez said, "The failure of the federal government to reimburse fully the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for the Compact-Impact costs resulting from the free flow of Micronesians into the commonwealth has added to our burdens." CNMI’s Department of Finance estimated that the U.S. owed over US$200 million in compact impact monies.]

Government records show the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ total grants of US$99,137,306 is slightly lower than fiscal year 2007 when it received US$99,761,054.

A total of 369 full-time-employees in government service are paid by the federal government.

Their annual wages come to over US$15 million, leaving close to US$84 million for various federally funded programs.

The governor’s office will get more than US$9 million in federal dollars for the local Homeland Security office, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the zoning project.

The Department of Community & Cultural Affairs’ low income energy assistance program will get US$76,856 in federal money this year.

The Office on Aging will get over US$1 million.

The Department of Community & Cultural Affairs-administered Nutrition Assistance Program will receive over US$9 million.

The Department of Commerce will receive US$37,000 from the feds for its survey project.

The Finance Department will get US$3,451 in federal dollars to attend the IGFOA Conference.

A large portion of the grant money — more than US$27 million—will go to the Public School System.

The Department of Public Health will also receive substantial financial aid from the U.S. government to run its various programs for the community.

More than US$10 million in grants is allocated to run the Medicaid program.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife and its parent agency, the Department of Lands and Natural Resources will receive more than US$3.7 million this year.

The Joeten Kiyu Public Library will also receive federal grant aid — US$76,310 and so will the Office of the Public Auditor—US$70,000.

The cash-strapped government said it can only spend US$160.1 million this fiscal year due to a sharp decline in tax collections from its major industries, garments and tourism.

It plans to reduce personnel by at least 397 to get by.

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