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ARPA funds bring people back to work, stimulate local economy

Friday, September 3, 2021

We’ve seen positive development in our economy and labor force in the past months. People are queueing in stores to use their stimulus cards, local businesses are recalling back their workers or giving them extra hours to cater to the increase in business activity, while government agencies have also restored their 80-hour work schedule and some employers have added new employees to support their operations and prepare for upcoming projects.

All these are made possible with the CNMI government utilizing the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds. The CNMI received $481.8 million in ARPA funding with $141.3 million to be spent in fiscal year 2021 and $340.5 million in 2022. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, through the Department of Finance and based on U.S. Treasury guidance, has allocated a significant portion of the ARPA funds for direct cash assistance to help families pay for living expenses.

The local stimulus cards released last month are now being used to pay for rent, food, utility bills, and other essential needs, giving residents the much-needed help at this time, while also providing revenue to local businesses and generating taxes into our coffers. The availability of this financial assistance and other federal aids is very timely as the new school year has started and as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program ends in the next few days.

Lessons from the success of the local stimulus cards and the build-up of government capacity should be built upon as we continue to navigate through the uncertainties and lingering impacts of the pandemic. Most promising is that through the strategic and prompt utilization of the ARPA funding, we can look forward to seeing critical infrastructure projects get off the ground, generate business activity, and continue our efforts toward economic recovery.

A glimpse at Garapan Fishing Base’s future

The three-day Taste of the Marianas was a hit with performers, vendors, and spectators flocking the Garapan Fishing Base.

Due to its location, the Garapan Fishing Base has developed into one of the Commonwealth’s most active and productive community gathering sites. As The Marianas envisions a transformation of our islands, imagine if there are regular events and quality amenities in the area. Imagine the development of the area to become a true destination in itself, perhaps even to become a focal site for community events beyond our weekly Sabalu Market. Think of how many residents and tourists it can attract and the revenue and jobs it can generate. Garapan Fishing Base has a great potential, given its prime location and its cultural and communal importance to our residents. It would take only a few right investors with viable plans to transform the area into a signature site of the Marianas.

Developing this prime site for our community needs to be done right. Commonwealth Economic Development Authority is tasked to help the Marianas find these investors, but CEDA will need the tools and the resources to get the job done. The House of Representatives has stepped in to help CEDA perform its mandate with the unanimous passage of House Bill 22-70 or the Investment Incentive Act of 2021. The bill now awaits the Senate’s decision and the Governor’s Council of Economic Council is again asking for support from our lawmakers to help us move forward with this critical piece of legislation.

Meanwhile, the GCEA thanks LJ’s Lawn Care for cleaning and painting the sidewalks and curbs leading up to Garapan Fishing Base. We would also like to acknowledge once again our Public Private Partnership supporters who participated in our island-wide cleanup campaign last month. Let’s enjoy the Labor Day weekend in our destination sites and village facilities. Together, We Can also keep them clean.

For more information, visit the GCEA at, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at


Mike Sablan is the Vice President of Triple J Enterprises, Inc. and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Torres and Lt. Gov. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.

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