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Marianas Variety: Governor allots $4.7M for NMC (May 20, 2020)

GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Tuesday allocated the $4.7 million Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act to Northern Marianas College so it can continue its academic and workforce programs and services.

Through the CARES Act, the CNMI received over $27 million in Education Stabilization Funds, which include the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.

Of the $27 million, the Public School System will receive over $23 million.

Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, and Finance Secretary David Atalig on Tuesday met with NMC Interim President Frankie Eliptico, Board of Regents Chairman Charles Cepeda, and regent Irene Torres at the college.

Other NMC officials and employees joined the meeting online.

“After much discussion and after much review of the guidelines of that grant, the governor has decided to allocate the full amount of the GEER to NMC,” Atalig told the NMC leaders, referring to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act.

Eliptico thanked Torres and Palacios for the allotment.

The past few months had been difficult for NMC and for the whole CNMI, Eliptico said. “We have been meeting about furloughs and other severe austerity measures. We have been talking about work-hour cuts. Last year, the college was one of the first agencies to implement austerity before anybody else in the Commonwealth. And we continued those austerity efforts this year, including work-hour reductions, which currently are in place. We are a part of this whole community and it is not just us who need funds,” he added.

Eliptico recounted that in mid-March, when government offices and businesses were closed, NMC transitioned its face-to-face classes to a virtual, online format.

“We did not delay the semester. We did not cancel any classes,” Eliptico said, adding that many of their graduating students, about 220, would have been affected if NMC canceled classes.

Eliptico at the same time acknowledged the hard work of the faculty and staff who continued the operations of the college.

He said learning continued at NMC, which conducted 245 class sections in the spring semester.

“To support NMC students in their academic journeys, NMC also continued critical student service functions including tutoring, counseling, student advising, and other academic and student support services,” Eliptico said, adding that NMC has about 1,300 students.

The governor said he “looked at the priority of the NMC and we decided to give everything to them. I believe in their leadership. I believe that the funds will go a long way.”

He added the NMC has produced first responders such as nurses, police officers, and firefighters. “You just look at the college’s programs and leadership — they deserve the $4.17 million.”

In April, NMC received $1.8 million from the CARES Act.

Eliptico said of this amount, $900,000 was distributed to students as required by the CARES Act.

“Within the first week of receiving the funds, $700,000 of the $900,000 went to our students. The remaining $200,000 or $180,000 will go to students who demonstrate need,” he added.

The other $900,000 cannot be used for salary expenses, he said. “Those funds will be used for expenses related to the online migration of our classes, including purchase of devices and online subscriptions, like Zoom, to conduct the classes.”

He said there are other expenses that NMC is paying for that was not included in their current fiscal year budget.

“This funding from the governor allows us to be able to pay some salary expenses and allows the college to continue its academic and training programs throughout the summer and for the new semester,” Eliptico said.

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