Northern Mariana Islands’ Kilili: More aid for small business, hospital, COVID-19 testing

by Apr 27, 2020Coronavirus, Federal Government0 comments

Members of the US House of Representatives returned to the capitol to pass another spending bill responding to the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus. The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act was later signed by the President. Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan z(D) of the Northern Mariana Islands said the popular Payroll Protection Program that allows small businesses and nonprofits to keep paying staff was replenished with $310 billion. An initial $349 billion for the PPP in last month’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or “CARES,” Act was completely used by April 16.

“56 applicants in the Marianas were awarded loans worth $12.6 million in the first round, but other Marianas applicants were turned away because funds were exhausted,” Congressman Sablan said. “Now there is a second chance, but act quickly.”

Three lenders in the Marianas are participating in the program—Bank of Hawai’i, Bank of Guam, and First Hawaiian Bank—according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Businesses that receive the one percent loans must repay them within two years. The loans will be completely forgiven, however, if an employer uses the money to keep or quickly rehire employees at their current wage. Up to 25% of the loans may also be used for rent, utilities, and other business costs.

Sablan said he would be posting the PPP borrower application form at his official website, and on his social media pages. “This will allow potential borrowers to see exactly what information will be requested when they go to the bank to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan.”

Several weeks ago, Republicans and the Trump administration proposed adding $250 billion to the popular program, but Democrats held out for an additional $60 billion for emergency business grants and loans and for a set-aside of $60 billion for lenders serving smaller communities.

“That could improve the odds for Marianas businesses and nonprofits,” Congressman Sablan said.

In the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program, 508 organizations on Guam were able to borrow $102.4 million. In Hawai’i 11,553 businesses and non-profits borrowed over $2 billion.

Help for healthcare

The bill the House passed also added $100 billion for healthcare to the original Republican proposal. Democrats secured $75 billion to get Personal Protective Equipment and other resources to frontline healthcare workers, hospitals, and community health centers.

Democrats also added $25 billion for testing, which experts say is the key to reopening the economy. And Democrats got Trump administration negotiators to agree to a national strategic testing policy that will focus on increasing testing capacity, including testing supplies, nationwide. Twenty-one days after the enactment of today’s bill, the administration will be required to report on coronavirus testing with data on demographic characteristics including race, ethnicity, and geographic regions. The report will also include numbers and rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths as a result of the virus.

“The key to reopening the economy and helping us all feel safe again is testing,” said Kilili. “South Korea, Taiwan, and Germany have shown that widespread testing can give confidence that the disease is receding and can alert health officials when the disease recurs.”

House leaders are also looking ahead to the next coronavirus relief legislation, what is being called CARES II. They had wanted to include more direct funding to state and territorial governments in today’s bill, but the Trump administration refused. 

“We need to make sure that state and territory governments have enough money to pay doctors and nurses, police, fire, teachers, and other vital workers and meet other critical obligations, like retirees,” Sablan said.