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  • By Pacific Island Times

New bills seek to mitigate impact of Covid-19 on Guam

New bills seeking to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic and address the crisis created by the coronavirus have been filed in the Guam Legislature. Guam Republican senators said the bills “would assist in achieving these very objectives, and are measures the community will certainly welcome as they seek relief at the cash registers.”

The proposed measures, the Guam Republican Party said in a statement, “would also provide businesses with some financial leverage so that they can avoid the inevitable realities of reducing employees hours or pursuing furloughs.”

The Republican Party of Guam endorsed the following bills:

Bill 311-35 Introduced by Sen. Jim Moylan - Proposes to temporarily reduce the business privilege tax from 5 percent to 4 percent between April 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2020, and also proposes to amend the Dave Santos Exemption Act by increasing both the qualifying and exemption thresholds. Results from a recent survey conducted by the Guam Chamber of Commerce, indicated that almost 80 percent of members surveyed stated that the two proposals which would assist their operations most during this crisis would be the reduction of the BPT and an amendment to the exemption act. This legislation would provide employers some cash flow leverage to maintain employees and/or avoid layoffs, and during this period of uncertainties, it is a much welcome proposal.

Bill 319-35 Introduced by Sens. Telo Taitague, Wil Castro, and Louise Muna - Proposes to also reduce the BPT temporarily from 5 percent to 4 percent, provide a BPT exemption for medication and medical supplies, requests for a swift payment of tax refunds, and provides funding for the Marianas Fusion Center to assist with improving communications during this crisis. Reducing the BPT and exempting it for medication and medical supplies is critical particularly at this juncture and at the cash registers. During this period when many island residents are unsure in terms of their compensation at work, relief measures such as this legislation would be greatly appreciated. Also expediting tax refunds would allow many families to attain an increased disposable income, while helping to spur the economy.

Bill 318-35 Introduced by Sen. Jim Moylan - Proposes to temporarily reduce the liquid fuel tax from April 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2020. This is another measure focused on reducing the cost of another critical commodity, which is fuel. At a period where relief is needed at the cash registers, Bill 318-35 assists in providing the savings at the gas pumps.

“During this time of uncertainties, it is critical that elected officials come together and work in a bi-partisan effort to look out for the welfare of the community,” the Republican Party said. “As we await federal support on an array of issues, it is pertinent that local leadership step up and answer the call placed by the community; a call for help. The Republican Party of Guam stands behind the efforts of these Republican senators, and are optimistic that a collaborative effort with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle is forthcoming.

On the Democratic Party’s side, Sen. Therese Terlaje filed a bill that seeks to “better support the Department of Public Health & Social Services, our administration and all frontline personnel working to effectively respond to the Covid-19 pandemic on Guam.”

Under current law, the Department of Public Health is required to file a petition for a court order to authorize the continued isolation or quarantine of individuals or groups of individuals within 10 days after issuing the written directive and then wait for court approval.

Bill 317-35 (COR), seeks to extend the 10-day period allowed by law to up to 30 days to encompass the 14 days recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

“As we are seeing with the current Covid -19 pandemic, things are rapidly changing and prevention and containment decisions need to be made at the same pace, or faster,” Terlaje said “Quarantine is an extreme measure that must be implemented with great respect for the rights and dignity of those who it affects, and exercised only in the face of great danger to the public. However, when it is necessary to save lives, it must be implemented effectively and without delay.”

The 30-day timeline also allows for compliance with CDC requirements after the initial 14-day quarantine period:

Non-test-based strategy:

· At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and,

· At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared

Test-based strategy:

· Two negative tests conducted 24 hours apart

Strict adherence to quarantine recommendations will help us to ensure the safety of our community.

“This is a time of great uncertainty and my heart is with all our people," Terlaje said. Now more than ever, we must do what is necessary to protect our loved ones and support those on the frontline leading this effort.”

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