A bipartisan panel of lawmakers in the CNMI House of Representatives have proposed two measures calling for a trio of direct payments to CNMI residents:
- Bonus pay for retirees
- A $500 per taxpayer + $500 per dependent local stimulus
- Expansion of the premium pay program to qualified private sector employees.
Among the movers of the house bill and house resolution proffering these programs is Rep. Tina Sablan. It is noteworthy that Ms. Sablan is challenging incumbent Gov. Ralph Torres for the governor’s office in this year’s election. If elected, Ms. Sablan would be in charge of whatever ARPA discretionary funds remain for her to spend on programs, such as these, she deems within the interest of the people of the Commonwealth.
The news release with information about the three matters from the Twenty-second House of Representatives follows:
Bonus pay for retirees:
House Ways and Means Chairman, Representative Donald Manglona (I-7), pre-filed a bipartisan House Bill to allocate $1.3 million dollars in local funds to properly allocate a bonus for government retirees totaling $1.3 million dollars from sources clearly identified, including provisions that were originally passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate but line item vetoed by the governor.
“This bonus is not only a symbol of our respect and admiration for our retirees, it also serves as an example of how to honor the commitment of those who served our community as government employees by doing things the right way,” Manglona said.
CNMI retirees were initially promised bonus payments from the Executive Branch when Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres announced his plan for a Christmas Bonus in a December 2021 media briefing. The Planning and Budgeting Act, Title 1, section 7402 of the Commonwealth Code provides the governor 25-percent reprogramming authority. As the governor had not reported to the Legislature he reached or exceeded these limits, the amount of $1.3 million fell well within the scope of the governor’s reprogramming powers.
“The governor should not have promised the retirees a bonus without identifying the source of the funding. While he placed the blame on the House Leadership for not acting on Senate Joint Resolution 22-05, we identified the specific business units and specific dollar amounts to fund the bonus for our retirees,” Chairman Manglona said. “Simply put, doing things the proper way takes longer. Our local funding levels are at the lowest they’ve been since the Trust Territory times and fiscal responsibility is especially crucial now more than ever.”
The bill will be introduced and voted upon in the next House session and sent to the Senate for approval. House Speaker, Edmund Villagomez is expected to call a session next week.
The bill is co-sponsored by House Speaker, Villagomez (I-3), Vice-Speaker, Blas Jonathan Attao (IR-3), Floor Leader, Ralph Yumul (IR-3), and representatives Celina Babauta (D-1), Vicente Camacho (D-3), Joel Camacho (IR-4), Edwin Propst (D-1), Corina Magofna (D-3), Christina Sablan (D-2), John Paul Sablan (IR-2), Richard Lizama (D-5), Leila Staffler (D-5), Denita Yangetmai (D-3).
Local stimulus program:
House Health and Welfare Chairwoman, Christina Sablan(D-2), introduced a bipartisan House Joint Resolution to strongly encourage and endorse the issuance of a new local stimulus payment of $500 per resident and $500 per dependent. Eligibility guidelines would remain the same as the previous federal stimulus packages; households that meet adjusted gross income guidelines of up to $75,000 per individual or $150,000 for married couples.
The joint resolution strongly urges the new local economic impact payment to be made directly to qualified households instead of limiting spending options to local vendors that accepted Visa debit cards, as with the previous local stimulus distribution.
“This stimulus package is meant to provide recipients with the flexibility and freedom to choose how they wish to apply these funds, expand the pool of small businesses that will benefit from increased consumer spending, and reduce overhead costs of administration,” Sablan said. “There are many other individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth who are in serious need of financial relief, including thousands of Commonwealth residents who remain unemployed or underemployed and still await long-overdue payments of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Commonwealth Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance (CCERA).”
Premium pay expansion:
The joint resolution also proposes to expand the scope of the premium pay “bonuses” of $1,000 and $5,000 to include other essential workers throughout the government, including autonomous agencies such as the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, as well as essential workers in the private sectors.
Governor Torres previously announced his plan to distribute premium pay to certain frontline government employees of the executive branch, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
“Throughout the pandemic, our community was served by frontliners in the public and private sectors who risked their well-being and the well-being of their friends and family when they reported to work. They overcame their fears through a sense of duty to our community and now it is our responsibility to acknowledge their service,” Sablan said.
The joint resolution is co-sponsored by House Speaker, Edmund Villagomez (I-3), Vice-Speaker, Blas Jonathan Attao (IR-3), Floor Leader, Ralph Yumul (IR-3), and representatives Celina Babauta (D-1), Vicente Camacho (D-3), Joel Camacho (IR-4), Edwin Propst (D-1), Corina Magofna (D-3), Christina Sablan (D-2), Donald Manglona (D-7), John Paul Sablan (IR-2), Richard Lizama (D-5), Leila Staffler (D-5), Denita Yangetmai (D-3).
Sapuro J. Rayphand
01/08/2022 at 1:46 AM
I am sick and tired of empty promises.
Give the retires the $500 bonus you promised as soon as possible.
They worked so hard to ensure that all of you would overcome any challenges of growing up and so now they are older, it is your turn to help them.
It is possible that length of time they helped you and raised you is longer than the number years you will provide for them. It is very possible that they will be gone in a few days, weeks, or years. Nobody knows when that may happen.
Please help them as soon as possible.
Thanks a million.
A very concerned CNMI voter.