Stimulus checks offer short-term relief, but Guamanians say they need their jobs back
Most Guam businesses remain closed and will likely remain so for another 30 days. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
The Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation on Friday released the second wave of locally funded stimulus relief checks, which will later be replaced by federal funds under the Economic Impact Payments (EIP) program, according to the governor's office.
The administration said approximately 3,800 checks were transmitted to the Treasurer of Guam and will soon be in the mail.
"This means a total 7,005 checks were printed for a cumulative total of nearly $11 million," the governor's office said. "These checks are for those individuals who filed and had income of less than $10,000. Checks were distributed in batches to allow for Guam’s financial institutions to remain compliant with social distancing protocols. After the implementation plan is federally approved, mass processing of EIP checks to our island’s people will begin."
The EIP is a component of the Trump administration's CARES Act, which provides one-time cash transfers of up to $1,200 to individuals to assist with the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The federal government’s coronavirus stimulus checks seek to provide much-needed relief to Americans struggling with day-to-day living costs.
People have lost their jobs, had their hours reduced, were furloughed, or forced those who can to work from home. But for those who had their lives abruptly changed by not having any type of income coming in, the pandemic had made their lives even harder.
Most people on Guam are still waiting to receive their stimulus checks. For those affected by the impact of the pandemic, these checks, though a one-time deal, offer a temporary relief.
“I think the stimulus check is a very great opportunity for this furloughed and completely released from work, as it helps provide for their essential needs during this pandemic,” said Gabriella Prelosky, a full-time college student.
For Prelosky, the check is enough. “I am fortunate to be living with my parents, but for most I don’t think it is.”
She noted that there are many people who rely on their bi-weekly checks to live on. The one-time stimulus checks will not be enough, especially for those who were furloughed, lost their jobs, and even had their hours cut from work. “I’m planning to put in into savings for the upcoming semester,” Prelosy added.
For Brandon Barnes, a painter at the Port Authority of Guam, the check will to toward his regular bills. "I will use the money I make from my job as personal cash," he said.
Like many, Barnes' work hours had been cut. He is now only working three days a week. He feels that the $1,200 will be enough because he is still working.
Vincent Perez, a police officer with the Guam Police Department, said that the stimulus checks will help out a lot of people. “I’m going to pay bills and buy some groceries,” Perez added.
But Perez said these one-time checks will not be enough to help stimulate the economy, because, “except for essential businesses, everything else is still closed.”
He said these checks will not be enough, especially for who lost their jobs. The one-time stimulus checks are only made to help people in the short run, but, in the long run, people are going to need to go back to work.
For Patty Duenas, a teacher with the Department of Education, “The stimulus checks are needed by many people and not everyone is blessed with a job that can pay them to work from home.”
Duenas also finances are a constant worry for those who have been furloughed or laid off, especially those with children.
People typically live off on the money they regular received whether from employment or public assistance.
“I plan to use some of the stimulus money for bills and keep the rest in savings,” Duenas added.
Duenas also said in these unprecedented times, putting aside extra money would be a good idea or spending it on essential items. “No one knows what will happen in the next few months,” Duenas added.
Another component of the CARES Act is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic. The PUA funds are currently not available on Guam pending completion of a program that complies with federal guidelines.
The governor's public health emergency, which entailed the closure of most local businesses, is set to expire on May 5, but the administration said it is likely to extend the restriction for yet another 30 days.
"Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has consistently said that so long as the data remains favorable, restrictions would likely be lifted gradually," the Joint Information Center stated in a press release. "This means that while certain restrictions will be relaxed, other mandates will remain in place—on a phased basis. That will likely require a 30-day extension of the public health emergency which is set to expire on May 5. Details will be offered in conjunction with the governor’s recovery plan next week. No action extending the public health emergency has been taken yet."
Meanwhile, Speaker Muña Barnes reached out to the Guam Banker’s Association earlier this week.
In anticipation of federal stimulus payments, which local residents are in dire need of during this time of economic downturn, constituents inquired with the Speaker’s office regarding the ability for banks to garnish stimulus checks for outstanding dues to their financial institution.
In light of U.S. Treasury’s guidelines allowing for banks to garnish stimulus checks, more than two dozen state attorneys general, had requested Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, to reverse such policy.
Muña Barnes reached out to Ed Untalan, president of the Guam Banker’s Association to implore him and the Guam Banker’s Association to forgo garnishments as residents struggle to put food on the table and pay rent.
Untalan, in response, said “the Guam Bankers Association stand together with the island in the face of this pandemic and the economic impact it has had on our residents and businesses.”
Untalan said the Guam Bankers Association has committed to not offset/garnish any stimulus checks to cover past due/delinquent loan or credit card payments, including any outstanding charges customers may have. (With additional reports from Mar-Vic Cagurangan)