Senators OK $2M emergency fund for typhoon damage cost
After more than four hours of deliberation on Thursday night, senators passed an emergency measure appropriating $2 million to cover the damage cost incurred by Typhon Mangkhut.
“I want to thank those senators who were present during tonight’s special session where Bill 1 (10-S) was discussed and voted on. This bill will appropriate funds to aid in the recovery efforts following Typhoon Mangkhut’s destructive stay on Guam,” said Gov. Eddie Calvo who called the Legislature into a special session.
Senators voted 10-1. Three absent senators were excused.
Sen. Michael San Nicolas, the only senator who voted against the emergency bill proposed by the governor, expressed concern about approving an emegency budget request without detailed information about how the funds would be spent noting that the administration’s finance officials were just “winging” the cost.
“We don’t know how they are going to spend this money,” San Nicolas said. "We do not have a damage assessment yet and there is no emergency declaration yet."
Sen. Tom Ada, the new chairman of the appropriations committee, urged the senators to trust that the administration would do what is right.
The governor's office submitted two versions of the emergency funding measure-- a time-stamped unnumbered bill proposed $1 million and another for $3 million Senators adopted the $1 million funding request bill, which was marked 1 (10-S), amended the amount to $2 million and passed.
The emergency funds would be tapped from the Guam Highway Fund and the Healthy Future Funds.
“With the only ‘nay’ being Sen. Mike San Nicolas, I want to say thank you to Senators Tom Ada, Frank Aguon, Wil Castro, Jim Espaldon, Fernando Esteves, Regine Lee, Louise Muna, Dennis Rodriguez, Joe San Agustin, and Acting Speaker Terlaje.”
Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee has introduced and included a compensation provision in the emergency relief bill passed by lawmakers this evening.
Through its inclusion in Bill 1 (10-S), Lee’s amendment authorizes a portion of the $2,000,000 of the Typhoon Mangkhut Emergency Appropriation for the compensation of crop damages wrought by the most recent typhoon.
“For many of our farmers, a storm can be an economic death sentence. That's why this is important now,” said Lee. “Standing law already requires that the department report the estimate of total damages. This simply sets the floor. If the amount they report in damages is somehow miraculously lower, I’m open to allowing any excess appropriation to continue in the event of other storms.”
Also on Thursday, Calvo wrote to President Donald Trump, saying he intends to request for a major disaster declaration for Guam, which may provide a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work. Preliminary damage assessments on the damages incurred from Typhoon Mangkhut are currently underway. Various government of Guam agencies are working to gather information regarding what damages their agency faced during and after the storm, and what their shortfalls are now as a result of the storm. The damage assessments from all agencies would serve as supporting documents for when the governor does submit the request for a Major Disaster Declaration. This is estimated to be in about two weeks or less. Joint assessments will be completed with Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), going around to villages where major damages were incurred, beginning Sept. 18, for about two weeks. Once requested, and if granted, the federal aid would supplement territory and local recovery efforts throughout the island in response to the damages from Typhoon Mangkhut. “I am committed to returning our island to normalcy. I am also committed to working with federal partner agencies, to see where additional aid is available,” Calvo said. “We know that recovery starts at the local level. Our people have done all they can to get back on their feet. Although Guam is and has been extremely resilient, it is now time to reach out for assistance, in whatever form that is." On September 10, 2018, Guam was impacted by Typhoon Mangkhut, incurring damages across the island including damages to residential homes, power distribution, water distribution, crop loss, and much more.