- By Johanna Salinas
Federal stimulus checks expected to arrive in two weeks
A total $134.8 million in federal economic impact will be available to Guam under the ''Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security Act'' or the ''CARES Act."
"Because our government was one of the first territories to submit our draft implementation plan we believe that checks associated with this program can be cut within two weeks of IRS approval,” said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
“There is a cut off in terms of income. IRS has estimated and agreed upon an amount would be set to Guam, $134.8 million. Because this program won’t be implemented until three to four weeks from now, because we still need to have our implementation plan approved," th governor said.
She said Department of Revenue and Tax director Dafne Shimizu managed to to draft Guam's implementation plan promptly.
"Right now, it is being it’s being reviewed by the IRS attorney and be given into the treasury to be approve. It's a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of requirements we’ll have to do but with the aggressive proactive work of Dafne, she was right there in the very beginning," the governor said.
"We're one of the territories that have submitted our implementation plan. Once that’s approved, two weeks from that implementation approval, we’ll be excepting to get the money, so we can start paying out those checks. In order for us to bridge that gap, what I did was I'm advancing the payments to individuals we’ve seen in the lowest income bracket. Those $10,000 and below in income are receiving the same amount--$1200 per individual.”
Leon Guerrero also hopes to use $11 million in Guam funds before the $134.8 million is approved. “I have directed the processing and release of over $11 million in local funds to be paid by this time next week. Tax filers with adjusted gross income of $10,000 or less in tax year 2018 will receive checks in amount outlined by the federal economic impact,” she said.
“This isn’t new money we’ve found that can be appropriated for other uses. I am able to make this available now because of prudent cash management with the expectation that such funds will be flowing back to Guam. There is no additional cash for new programs beyond this point. I know that some of you might ask why didn’t we do this sooner. That answer is simple—no one should have to deal with empty promises for faulty financial plans.
Because it’s a federal program, Leon Guerrero is allowed to advance it and have Guam get reimbursement for that money. The money they are using to pay it is from the general fund. “We are floating around $11 million and I'm comfortable doing that because I know we will have reimbursable federal grant,” she said.
“The program is such that we will be able to provide checks to 10000 individuals to include children. This program is the program the federal government initiated, established and put into law to help the individuals in assisting them in their financial needs. It’s a onetime payment. It's a pone time rebate. It's based on your tax filings and we’re using 2018 filings. If you have an income of $75,000 and below you get $1200. If you file as a couple and your income is $150,000 and below, then your benefit is $2400. Every child under the age of 17 gets $500 in your household. As your income increases, you still are eligible for some rebate, but the amount decreases by some calculation being done.”
Everyone who has filed 2018-2019 is eligible. The amount based on income level. The governor believes the $134.8 million is enough because the federal government used the 2018 data and estimated how much was needed. “We looked at the $10,000 and below was the first group of population who filed that we were then immediately provide the payments to them,” said the governor.
“When we looked at analysis on what we can afford on our general fund revenues and based on our general fund monies and based making sure we’ll continue providing for our COVID 19 response and that we can continue providing public services, we were able to afford $11 million.”
Shimizu further explained how they determined which taxpayers qualified. “We determined based on our data how many people would qualify for the rebate. We went ahead and provided that data to the IRS,” she said. “We’re utilizing 2018 as a baseline to determine eligibility for the economic impact. We when looked at 2018 data and data four years prior, we had to take in consideration people who didn’t file.”
The governor insists that government of Guam is doing their best to get money to locals as soon as possible. “Our administration is doing everything we can to provide for the needs of our people,” she said. “We're very concerned about the needs of our people. We're very concerned about the livelihood of our people. We're very concerned that our families and our children are fed. We're very concerned also that we provide as much transparency we can in all the things that we are doing. And I am especially, especially appreciative of all the people who are making the sacrifices to meet the needs of our people as best we can. I’m not aware of the phone lines. Linda is here; she assures me they are working.”
The big bulk of this funding comes from the CARES Act. “In the CARES Act there was $150 billion that was appropriated for the coronavirus recovery. These are monies directly given to the states and territories. It's a direct subsidy for the states and territories, Leon Guerrero said. “$3 billion for the $150 billion is earmarked for territories. Out of the 3 billion, Guam is going to receive $111.8 million. That’s separate than the $11 million were going to hand out to our tax filers in the next weeks.”
Leon Guerrero is all the talks of money and who qualifies for what can be confusing and overwhelming. “They're both under CARES act. Under the CARES Act there are so many programs and benefits, I can’t even start,” she said. “Benefits for healthcare, education, individual assistance, farmers. The main highlight ones that have a much greater impact for us is the economic impact and the coronavirus recovery. Also there’s a lot of loans for small business.”
Checks will arrive by mail because the government does not have access to all Guamanians' bank accounts. Leon Guerrero believes around 59,000 to 62,000 tax filers will receive a payment. Leon Guerrero stated, “COVID 19 isn’t just a public health battle. It's an economic one too. While we are all effected, some of are hurting more than others.”
Another issue was that many locals who tried calling public health to apply for these funds had a difficulty trying to contact their hotlines. “I have called those numbers myself and they are working,” Leon Guerrero insisted. “The 311 number is very accessible. I've called the 311 and asked to be directed to the medical triage and the medical triage nurse was very professional. I didn’t say this is the governor of Guam, I just said I'm checking how things are. We're working hard to get a lot of phone lines.”
The governor is aware of the island’s frustrations and asks for the people’s patience during this crisis. “This is a very unprecedented situation,” she admitted. “We are evolving as it go along. We are planning our processes as we go along. This isn’t unique to Guam. This is everywhere throughout the whole United States and also throughout the whole world.”