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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved the plan to spend $244 million in CDBG-DR funds that Congress made available to the Marianas in last year’s disaster relief act, Public Law 116-20. The Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery monies—the largest single federal grant in the history of the Marianas—are for long-term, “unmet needs” not covered by the half a billion dollars in emergency aid provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other first responders after Super Typhoon Yutu and Typhoon Mangkhut. Congratulations to Mr. Jesse Palacios at Northern Marianas Housing Corporation, who led the effort to produce the spending plan. Because of the scale of funding CDBG-DR plans are often returned to applicants for revision.

The approved Marianas plan calls for $110 million to be spent to repair damaged homes and build new residences and rental housing. Another $97 million is to be used for ports, roads, utilities, and other infrastructure on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. And $21 million will go to economic development activities. The Marianas Visitors Authority is expected to participate with an intensive marketing campaign to revive tourism. Lastly, $4 million is set aside for planning activities for future housing, energy use and conservation, and utilities. The public had the opportunity for input on the plan before it was submitted and there will be further opportunity, as more detailed spending decisions are made.

There remain additional steps in the grant process. The Commonwealth government will have to have a plan for financial controls governing this huge amount of money. And HUD will have to certify those controls are satisfactory. After that, HUD will draw up a grant agreement for the Commonwealth to sign and the funds can begin to flow. All $244 million is expected to be spent by 2026. So, we are going to see many years of intense construction activity, with plenty of job opportunities and opportunities for local contractors, large and small.