The US House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. The goal of the Act is to help states and territories recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill seeks to increase access to vaccines and provide economic relief.
The American Rescue Plan has become imperative for the Northern Mariana Islands. The pandemic has hit the territory particularly hard; deaths per 1000 are twice the average in the United States.
The effects of COVID-19 have become a major discussion in the upcoming race for governor. Current governor Ralph Torres (R) is seeking reelection against Christina Sablan (D).
The American Rescue Plan offers the territory $28 million for Medicaid. However, Torres and his government must match $5 million to receive the subsidy. House committees have prompted Torres to take the offer. With the healthcare crisis worsening in the islands, there is pressure on Torres to act.
If he does not contribute $5 million, the federal government will rescind the offer of $28 million. Without this financial support, Medicaid agencies will have to close critical healthcare providers. Such shutdowns will decrease the availability of doctors and increase wait times for treatments.
Sablan has made her stance on the American Rescue Plan clear. She has criticized Torres for his lack of urgency in matching the $5 million. Torres responded that he believes the Northern Mariana Islands have enough Medicaid. He has also disapproved of Sablan’s use of the media as a mediator, imploring Sablan to address her concerns directly, rather than through the media.
The elections will be held this November.