Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Sunday issued an executive order implementing a Covid- 19 response differential pay policy for government of Guam employees working during the public health emergency period.
“While we have directed most people to work from home, there are so many government employees who are tirelessly responding to the crisis behind the scenes or on the front lines, including nurses, social workers, technicians, public safety officers,” she said.
“Under this policy government of Guam employees will receive differential pay up to 25 percent of their regular wages depending on their risk of exposure to Covid 19.”
Executive Order 2020-08 classifies three categories for pay differences:
Category 1: 25 percent pay differential to essential employees in the course of their duties who are in direct contact or in close physical proximity to a population infected with Covid-19.
Category 2: 15 percent pay differential to essential employees in the course of their duties who may come in contact or close physical proximity to a population infected with Covid-19.
Category 1: 10 percent pay differential to essential employees whose positions do not allow them to telework and are mandated to perform their job duties at physical worksites in response to Covid-19.
Although differential pay would be helpful for those working during the pandemic, Leon Guerrero is aware that she needs help from the Guam Legislature to get the most of it.
“This differential pay policy is a recognition they have taken in order to do their job. Let me make it clear that this policy is prospective,” she said. “That means it is effective today. Unfortunately, I do not have the legal authority to apply this differential at the start of this crisis. I need legislative authorization to do that and I have written to the speaker requesting that authority as soon as it is possible.”
Another issue of concern was the economy. “The immediate mechanism to provide local funding or local help would be through the public assistance program which is locally funded or through SNAP for food stamps,” she said.
“I am in discussion with Public Health to see how much they might be estimating so that I can put into public assistance so that those individuals who need assistance can apply.”
Because people have been laid off and are unable to pay their bills, Leon Guerrero knows that a rent delay would be helpful. “On the rent issue, my executive order says they cannot be evicted. I think there is also delay in rental payment,” she said.
“I'm very concerned with the small businesses because I believe they are the backbone of our economy. There are many programs right now that they can institute right away that can help them with their cash flow that can help them with their means of operations.”
Leon Guerrero added, “Whatever I then provide, it’s like advancing them ahead for some cash to provide them with their living and their sustainability and their sustenance. It can be reimbursed by I need to look at what available monies there are.”
The Governor is aware that local businesses are taking a big hit from the pandemic. “I am just as concerned about our people in terms of helping them out to try to get a bridge or something so they can continue on. One of the things we are encouraging employers to is to continue employing these individuals,” she said.
The governor said businesses can immediately borrow money from SBA and depending on how much of their expenses cover payroll, that portion of the loan can be forgiven.
Leon Guererro is also aware that government employees currently not working are also worried about their jobs. “I still need nonessential employees as we move forward to be able to function so that we can continue providing the public services we need in the order of public safety, health, education. There's no discussion at this moment,” she said.