Jun 28, 2021

In this issue: 


$2.3m in Marianas projects approved

The House Appropriations Agriculture Financial Services Subcommittees approved their FY 2022 bills this week with my community project funding requests included.

  • $952,394 for small business – My request for a Small Business Development Center Business Innovation Incubator at the Northern Marianas College was included in the FY 2022 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. To be based in Saipan, the incubator will foster small business innovation throughout the Marianas.
  • $391,500 for Rota dialysis expansion – My request for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation Peritoneal Dialysis Expansion Project was included in the FY 2022 Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA Appropriations bill. This project will expand home dialysis for individuals in Rota, allowing them to stay at home, instead of relocating to Saipan to obtain treatment.
  • $980,639 for health IT upgrades – My request for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation was also included in the FY 2022 Agriculture appropriations bill. The subcommittee authorized the funding for Health Information Technology upgrades to improve interoperability between islands. This project will improve inter-island connectivity by upgrading the phone systems, facilitating central patient storage, ensuring higher utilization of telehealth, and reducing unnecessary off-island travel.

The remaining subcommittees will mark up their respective bills in July before heading to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration.

More funding for K-12, preschool access

On Thursday, the Education and Labor Committee received testimony from Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on the new administration’s policies and budget priorities. I noted the importance of the budget’s 62 percent funding increase for K-12 education including Title I schools in the Marianas and other economically disadvantaged communities. The President’s budget also boosts the Preschool Development Grant program by $175 million. The program awarded $2 million to the Marianas Public School System to expand access to high-quality early learning so more children will have the skills to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Watch our exchange here.

More funds for clean island energy

Secretary Deb Haaland appeared before the Natural Resources Committee hearing Wednesday for the first time as Interior Secretary. She testified on her department’s priorities and the President’s FY22 budget proposal. Interior’s $17.6 billion budget request includes $122.4 million in discretionary funding for the Office of Insular Affairs, up $7.2 million from FY22. The increase is mostly due to the $7 million addition to the Energizing Insular Communities Program, which would nearly double program funding to $15.5 million. I thanked Secretary Haaland for recognizing the value of the EIC program created by Congress to develop energy strategies for the insular areas to reduce the cost of electricity and dependence on fossil fuels. She also committed to fully implement the program as intended in PL 113-235. I extended an open invitation for the secretary to visit the Marianas. View our exchange here.

Toxic exposure care for veterans

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a markup on Thursday, advancing one comprehensive bill that recognizes toxic exposure as a cost of war. The bipartisan H.R. 3967, would expand access to health care for toxic exposed veterans, improve the toxic exposure presumption process, improve resources and training for toxic exposure, and modernize toxic exposure registries and records.

$9m for airports and concessions

The Commonwealth Ports Authority is receiving $9,091,659 in emergency aid for its airports and airport concessionaires, the FAA announced Tuesday. Funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in March. These grants will help our airports recover from the impacts of the pandemic and keep airport workers safe and employed. Acceptance of the funding requires CPA to continue employing at least 90 percent of pre-pandemic employees. Funds may be used to reimburse operational expenses, debt service payments, and costs related to combating the spread of pathogens. Funding may also go towards providing rent relief to in-terminal retail and concession companies.

The FAA is distributing the bulk of the funds to airports based on the number of annual boardings. The $9,091,659 allocated to CPA is distributed, as follows:

  • Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International – $6,765,199
  • Tinian International – $1,238,669
  • Benjamin Taisacan Manglona International – $1,065,791
  • Pagan Airstrip – $22,000

Congratulations to CPA.

$2.4m for electric buses

Congratulations to the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority for their successful application of a $2,373,675 competitive Low and No Emission Vehicle Grant. The Federal Transit Administration announced the grant award Friday. COTA will use the funding to purchase battery electric buses, construct a charging station, and provide workforce development training. COTA says this Low-No Bus Program project will improve service and reliability for Saipan residents who use transit to access jobs, school, healthcare, and other services while helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eliminating fuel costs.

$1.5m for insular civic programs

Grant funds for civic education programs for students from the insular areas were awarded to the Close Up Foundation and the Junior State of America, the Office of Insular Affairs announced Monday.

·     The Close Up Foundation is receiving $1,000,000 for the 2021 Close Up Insular Area Program. Close Up provides civics education for students and teachers and helps high school students travel to Washington and other historic U.S. cities. A portion of the funds also goes to holding educational summits in the islands and virtual learning programs and professional development for teachers.

·     The Junior State of America is receiving $499,100 for the 2021 JSA Insular Affairs Youth Civic Engagement Program for High School Students Program. The grant will help island students attend summer school leadership programs at prestigious universities. Funding will also go to JSA’s Academic Preparation & Community Project Boot Camp in the insular areas.

Congress appropriated $21.8 million for OIA’s Technical Assistance Program this year, up $1 million from FY20, to provide grants for short-term, non-capital projects that foster development in the insular areas.

CARES Act: more PPP; deadline soon

As of June 20, 440 PPP loans worth $38,159,067 have been okayed as well as 169 EIDL loans worth $11,090,000

National shark fin ban mirrors CNMI conservation law

Then-representative Diego T. Benavente authored a ban on the sale of shark fins in the Northern Marianas Islands in the 17th Legislature, which was signed into law by Governor Benigno R. Fitial in 2011. I introduced legislation that makes that ban apply nationwide.

Job Corps bill aims to improve workforce training in the NMI

I recently introduced legislation to permit the establishment of a Job Corps center in the Northern Mariana Islands.




Public Comments:




·     H.R. 961 - Justice for Juveniles Act (passed under suspension of rules)

·     H.R. 2922 - Elder Abuse Protection Act (passed under suspension of rules)

·     H.R. 2694 - Criminal Judicial Administration Act (passed under suspension of rules)


·     H.R. 391 - Global health Security Act of 2021

H.Res 401 - Urging the Administration to facilitate assistance in response to the devastating impacts of COVID-19 in India