CNMI Delegate Seeks U.S. Support For Over 200 Programs

admin's picture

$200 million in federal funds per year, vastly exceed local budget

By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 16, 2014) – Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) submitted to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee a list of over 200 federal programs he recommends to be funded in fiscal year 2015 and the amount he supports for each. These include programs and services that benefit the CNMI, which receives over $200 million in federal funds every year.

Proposed federal funding for the CNMI alone covers programs and services related to health, education, public safety, employment, environmental protection, disability assistance, water, power and wastewater, youth activities, and promoting entrepreneurship.

The amount of federal government direct spending, obligation, and grants to the CNMI has long exceeded the local government’s gross revenue. The governor’s proposed 2015 budget is $134 million.

"These formal recommendations to the Appropriations Committee are an important means that all Members of Congress use to influence spending decision each year. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this process, which helps determines the federal programs that are funded and how much money each receives," Sablan said in an April 14 letter to Gov. Eloy S. Inos, a copy of which was released by the delegate’s office yesterday.

The governor, in an interview yesterday, said the CNMI welcomes federal funding to the CNMI.

"We support that. But the climate in Washington, D.C. is basically an uphill battle for something like this but we support that and we urge the congressman [Sablan] to look for federal funding to cushion the shortfall," Inos told reporters at the groundbreaking for a $147,280 road marking and signage upgrade project.

Inos, a former Finance secretary, said he also encourages CNMI agencies to search for federal funding or grants "for many of their programs so we can help cushion many of the [local funding] shortfalls."

After the president has submitted his budget to Congress, a next step in the annual appropriation process is for individual members of the House of Representatives to submit their recommendations of programs that should be funded and funding amounts to the Appropriations Committee.

Sablan also included information about the amount of funding that the CNMI received for each program.

There are some programs, he said, for which the CNMI is eligible but for which no funds have been received.

Some can be competitive programs that the CNMI or individuals have chosen not to participate in or have not successfully completed.

"Or, in some cases, these are programs which benefit organizations or individuals in the Marianas but not with direct funding," he added.

Sablan requests funding for national programs and funding awarded in the CNMI or benefit provided to the CNMI.

For example, there is a request of $84.2 billion in supplemental nutrition assistance program or SNAP funding for the entire United States in fiscal year 2015. In the CNMI, the amount is $12.148 million in fiscal year 2014.

Another example is the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children or WIC, whose requested funding at the national level is $6.8 billion for fiscal year 2015. In the CNMI, the fiscal year 2013 WIC funding was $4.5 million.

Although the Appropriations Committee bases its spending decisions in part on ideology and budgetary realities, member recommendations are also important, Sablan said, "a kind of voting where even ‘non-voting’ delegates are equal."

Last week, one of Sablan’s recommendations—pertaining to veterans benefits—got the Appropriations Committee’s nod.

Sablan said that veterans in the CNMI do not have direct access to the Veterans Benefits Administration so he asked that language accompany this year’s Veterans Department appropriation requiring a report on how services are being delivered in rural areas like the CNMI. He said the Appropriations Committee agreed.

The delegate said the report is to include the number of veterans served, the type and frequency of services available, as well as an evaluation on the effectiveness of these efforts, their costs, and the resources needed to enable VA to provide more services to rural veterans.

"This kind of data can be the basis for legislation or administrative actions, improving care to the veterans in our islands and to underserved veterans throughout our country," he added.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment