NMI wants Trump visa ban exemption, Korean travel bubble

In his June 24 press conference, Acting Gov. Arnold I. Palacios — who lieutenant governor of the  Northern Mariana Islands  said the recent extension by President Donald J. Trump for a ban on new visas until the end of the year — which includes H-1B visas and H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers — is an issue for the Northern Mariana Islands.

The NMI will be seeking clarification from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; it is unclear if territories will be granted any exceptions.

“We’re hoping we can continue to recruit actually from the outside … we’re lucky that we have [CW-1] visas to address that issue,” Palacios said.  “We will probably have to source out; hopefully from folks that are already here and construction workers.”

Kevin Bautista, the governor’s press secretary, said the NMI is continuing preparations to reopen for tourism on July 15. “Right now, we’re starting with South Korea. The governor and the Council of Economic Advisors have been working closely with the Korean government to establish a travel bubble between Korea and the CNMI.”

The contract for the Pacific Islands Club Saipan as a quarantine facility was terminated on June 23.

Patrick Guerrero, the governor’s representative on the COVID-19 task force, said there was “no need for those rooms.” The Mariana Resort & Spa is still being prepared as another quarantine facility.

“We’re not rushing because we don’t see a surge in sight,” said Guerrero.

Self-quarantined individuals who are noncompliant with NMI entry requirements are subject to a 14-day consecutive quarantine at a designated facility at their own cost of $400 per night including meals.

However, imprisonment for quarantine violations is not mentioned in the amended COVID-19 directives.

“I [would] hate to use imprisonment because it’s a public health issue,” Warren Villagomez, chairman of the COVID-19 task force, said. “We will discuss issues on how to contain people; we have the processes in place. So yes, we would adhere to the fullest to ensure that our community are safeguarded and minimize the spread.”

Villagomez declined to provide further details about consequences regarding noncompliance of quarantine protocol. 


U.S. military not tested before departure or on arrival in Guam

The public affairs office at Andersen Air Force Base has confirmed that personnel who arrived in Guam on May 25 were not tested before they left the U.S. mainland, or on-island after arrival.

Master Sgt. Richard P. Ebensburger of the public affairs office told the Journal, “They don’t take any tests unless they’re symptomatic.”

However, he said, “Prior to deployment, they all go through screening.”

The Air Force has not disclosed from which airbase in which U.S. state the personnel have been deployed from. At the governor’s June 23 press conference, it was confirmed in answer to a question that the group is not from Texas.

As of June 22, a cluster of COVID-positive airmen who were housed at the Guam Reef Hotel and broke quarantine numbered 35. They visited multiple businesses. Contact tracing is ongoing, according to the Guam Department of Health.

The administration has cautioned that only official news about which businesses the airmen visited should be shared.  The Journal has received photos which are circulating on social media.

Two additional airmen from another Air Force unit also tested positive. All positive cases are now housed on-base.

The Air Force is investigating the quarantine break.


Testing and food distribution will continue in Guam villages

COVID-19 drive-thru testing will be available the morning of June 25 at St. Francis School /St. Francis parking lot

The same morning, food distribution will occur at the Dededo Farmer’s Market and Tiyan Upper Baseball Field.

Loan deferments news:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced June 23 an extended moratorium on single-family housing loans through Aug. 31.

The moratorium applies to initiation of foreclosures or completion of foreclosures in process, excluding vacant and abandoned properties and evictions of borrowers from properties bought with a USDA direct home loan. More information is available at www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus.

Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero on June 23 called for the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority not to go forward with disconnections from July 1.

This is the first week claimants of unemployment benefits are receiving payments by direct deposit or will receive them as they are mailed out.


NMI jobs available for displaced workers

The Northern Mariana Islands Department of Labor Workforce Investment Agency is one of 24 entities to be awarded funding for temporary employment opportunities through the COVID-19 Pandemic National Dislocated Worker Grant of the CARES Act.

Eligible employees to be paid from the $1.5 million grant will need to meet be

  • Temporarily or permanently laid off as a consequence of COVID-19
  • Meet WIOA Dislocated Worker eligibility criteria
  • Be a long-term (at least six months) unemployed worker
  • Be a self-employed individual who became unemployed or significantly under-employed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hiring is through www.hiremarianas.com, according to a June 23 release.