Congress adopts measures to address Corona Virus
PALIKIR, POHNPEI. March 13, 2020 – The Fourth Special Session of the 21st Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia adjourned on March 11, 2020, with the passage of a number of important measures to address the Coronavirus emergency, per the polling of members of Congress for a Special Session.
Speaker Wesley W. Simina thus called for a 5-day Fourth Special Session to convene on March 05, to review the amended Public Health Declaration on the issue of novel coronavirus [COVID-19] and understand the Nation’s preparatory and mitigation efforts. The Congress convened in Palikir as called, and since the President was traveling abroad, met with Vice President Yosiwo P. George and Cabinet members, the National Coronavirus Task Force along with the entities relevant to efforts of the Task Force. Understanding the gravity of the matter and its potential impact across the Nation, the Congress voted to extend the session for another two days.
After careful review of all information gathered and a thorough assessment of the Nation and the States’ readiness to address the Coronavirus, the Congress passed measures to address the Nation’s ongoing efforts. Through Congressional Act (CA) 21-93, the Congress re-shuffled the National Government’s 2020 Budget and slashed the travel funds of most departments and offices of the Executive Branch along with the Legislative Branch to appropriate $547,000 for the President to utilize in the works of the Coronavirus Task Force as a supplement to the $700,000 previously allotted for the same intent.
In light of communications from the tourism sector across the Nation, the Congress adopted CA 21-94, to add a new section under chapter 6 of title 55 (Government Finance and Contracts) of the F.S.M.C. to establish a temporary Tourism Sector Mitigation Fund to alleviate some of the economic loss felt by the tourism industry during the Coronavirus outbreak. As such, an appropriated of $1 million was made in the Supplemental Budget to finance the tourism mitigation fund. The Act also called on the President to name a committee to administer and distribute the funds with quarterly reports of the status submitted to the Congress.
Mindful of possible economic impacts of the Coronavirus, Congressional Resolution (CR) 21-126, was adopted to urge the President to meet and work with the financial and lending institutions operating throughout the Nation to put in place measures to assist borrowers at this time of crisis, including but not limited to, forbearance or deferment of loan payments and loan restructure.
Based on the March 5th request by the President for access to the Disaster Assistance Emergency Fund (DAEF) resources available under the Compact of Free Association, the Congress immediately adopted CR 21-127 authorizing the President to access, as needed, up to $2 million of the DAEF for the duration of the declared Public Health Emergency.
Following extensive public hearings with the National Coronavirus Task Force and meetings with those entities working closely with the Task Force, the Congress adopted CR 21-129 to amend certain terms of the Public Health Declaration as amended on February 14, 2020. One of the major changes is the extension of the Public Health Emergency Declaration to May 15, 2020.
The other major amendment to the resolution is that while the restriction on travels to and from Hubei Province in China remain intact, the adopted resolution lifted and removed the travel ban and quarantined requirements that were placed on travelers from COVID-19 infected countries. Senator Ferny S. Perman, Chairman of the committee on Health and Social Affairs, noted that the goal of the travel restrictions from the beginning was to “allow the states to prepare for the enhanced screening of people entering our country. We had a month and a half to implement the enhanced screening procedures. Our goal is to ensure that there is a strong plan in place to respond especially at the state levels.”
Congressional Resolution are effective upon adoption by the Congress while the Congressional Acts are effective when signed into law by the President, otherwise the Acts automatically become law if not acted upon within 30 days. The adopted resolutions were transmitted to the appropriate recipients and the Acts have been transmitted forthwith to the President for his action.
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THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS