Newly filed war claims bill to tap local funds
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes Bill 181-35 that would create a local fund for Guam’s WWII survivors’ war reparations.
The bil, co-authored by Minority Leader Will Castro and Sen. Amanda Shelton, was introduced on Thursday, three days before Guam marks the 75th anniversary of the island’s liberation from Japanese forces during WWII.
Muna Barnes mentioned a three-pronged approach to the war claims—from creating a local claim fund, to giving the governor transfer authority, to work with the government agency that will help facilitate this for the survivors.
The bill would appropriate $7.5 million for at least 754 war survivors, whose applications have been adjudicated.
Muna Barnes said, “Working closely with the governor’s office, with the treasury, with Uncle Sam literally, we knew we wanted to make sure when we introduced this bill that it would work with everything moving forward.”
The senator is positive that Congressman Mike San Nicolas’s HR1365 will also be passed by Congress. “(Bill 181-35) will look at awarding to the survivors and HR 1365 would be awards for all the other descendants and those who are not awarded yet because the claim is still going through it’s process,” Muna Barnes explained.
She is open for any input from San Nicolas.
Muna Barnes said, “I want to say if there’s anyway if Congressman San Nicolas would like to help us amend this bill or make it better or help move it along in the efforts of what he’s doing, we more than welcome to accept those recommendations. We have to work together.”
She is optimistic that members of the legislature will support the new bill to help the manamko. “I truly hope that my colleagues understand the urgency to do this. I want to share with all of you that everyday there are sainas that are passing before us and I am truly grateful for Congressman Mike San Nicolas for moving forward with HR 1365,” Muna Barnes said. “We need to acknowledge we have a long way to go once his bill clears the House. I know Legislative Secretary and Oversight Chair of Senior Citizens Sen. Shelton is there to support those efforts.”
Muna Barnes has received support from local Democrats for Bill 181-35. “Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee said as soon as this bill is introduced, she will route it through the proper oversight chair,” Muna Barnes said.
“I’m hoping within the next day or so. That would be the oversight chair of finance and budgeting and that would be Sen. San Agustin. He said if this bill gets referred to him, he’s hoping to clear it by the end of the month. And then it’d be brought to the floor, if we can work it into the August session.”
Bill 181 is deviation from the administration’s original plan to tap the local matching fund for Medicaid.
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Muna Barnes feels that the bill is a very positive, fast approach. Once the bill is enacted, the U.S. Department of Treasury can issue the memorandums of understanding that is needed to comply with the provisions that is set forth in this bill. With the passage of HR1365 and if the bill should pass, this would then allow the Department of Treasury to release funds owed to Guam, Section 30 moneys for the claims that Guam has fulfilled.
Muna Barnes said she feels a deep connection to the manamko and so Bill 181-35 was very vital to pursue. “It is truly doing justice for our people—the greatest generation that has ever lived,” she said. “The freedoms that we live today, I’m reminded and I reflect upon (them). When I was in Mangilao with Tita Quitugua, she said it is this time that we honor all those who suffered and still live today. Our generation under them continue to live because of the freedoms they we’re given.”
Castro is also optimistic on the passing of 181-35. “I think we have a solid bill here. I think many would be surprised on how far we’ve come in collaborating with the Leon Guerrero administration and the Trump administration,” Castro affirmed.
According to San Nicolas’s Facebook, HR 1365 will be voted on next week with strong bi-partisan support.