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Committee to Wait on the President Discuss Extending Travel Restrictions to September 30th, Broader COVID-19 Readiness, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Nominations, & More
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—The 21st Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) began its Sixth Special Session on July 1st, 2020. On July 2nd, 2020, His Excellency David W. Panuelo and the Honorable Yosiwo P. George received the Committee to Wait, inclusive of the Honorable Esmond B. Moses and the Honorable Ferny S. Perman, to discuss their agenda for this session of Congress.
Topics discussed in the meeting included the Nation’s COVID-19 medical readiness, updates on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and the Financial Assistance for Stranded Citizens program, supplemental budget requests, implementation of Public Law 21-76 (i.e. the plastics ban), and nominations for Congress’ consideration, among others.
President Panuelo advised that the Nation is not yet ready to accept repatriation of its citizens, but that work was progressing on conducting simulation exercises across the country. The President requested Congress to consider extending travel restrictions to September 30th, 2020.
It was noted that Pohnpei State is intending to have another simulation exercise after work is done to fill the gaps discovered in its first run-through. Meanwhile, according to the Chair of the FSM COVID-19 Task Force—the Honorable Livingston A. Taulung—the FSM State of Kosrae has advised that it is ready to receive the National Task Force to conduct a simulation exercise there. The State of Chuuk has requested that it be the last State to undergo any simulation exercises, so that it has more time to prepare.
Regarding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the Honorable Eugene Amor—Secretary of the Department of Finance & Administration—advised the Committee that each FSM State has opened an Office of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Altogether, more than sixteen hundred (1,600) applications across the FSM have been received by the National Government thus far. Later in the day, when Congress was in session, the States of Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae voted to allow the National Government to tax the financial assistance citizens receive through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Regarding the Financial Assistance for Stranded Citizens abroad, Secretary Amor advised that approximately two hundred (200) checks have been disbursed to stranded citizens and students. Roughly four hundred (400) applications for this program have been received so far, representing more than six hundred (600) total FSM citizens. President Panuelo advised the Committee that the Executive Branch is of the understanding that Congress will increase the amount of funding allocated towards this program during the Sixth Special Session.
President Panuelo advised the Committee that the Executive Branch has several nominations for Congress to consider, including the Consul General for the FSM Consulate in Hawaii, an Associate Justice for the FSM Supreme Court, and Board Members for the FSM Insurance Board, the FSM Trust Fund, and Caroline Islands Air.
The meeting ended on a positive note, with President Panuelo, Vice Speaker Moses, and Senator Perman agreeing that the FSM National Government is united in its efforts to protect the Nation from COVID-19 and the environment from pollutants such as one-time-use plastic and Styrofoam.