• By Pacific Islands Times News Staff

Senators OK increased funding for public health, GCC

At the continuation of budget deliberation today, senators gave the nod to proposed appropriation increases for public health, foster care and apprenticeship program.

An amendment proffered by Sen. Mary Torres appropriated an additional $1 million to the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Torres had questioned why an appropriation to fund a $1 million line of credit was inserted into the 2021 budget bill, despite the fact that the Guam Memorial Hospital has no expectation to borrow.

The law allows GMH to arrange a line of credit, a revolving loan fund, and/or a direct loan capped at $25 million.

Given that the hospital loan had already been borrowed and paid off by a Section 30 Limited Obligation Bond in FY 2016, Torres struck the language from the GMH chapter and appropriated $1 million to DPHSS to expand its resources during the Covid-19 crisis.

“This $1 million appropriation was never intended to pay for direct hospital operations. Rather, the Office of Finance and Budget inserted this provision permitting the GMH to use this funding as a line of credit that GMH did not ask for and did not intend on using,” Torres said.

Senators also approved Sen. Telo Taitague’s proposal to authorize DPHSS to access an unused appropriation of $800,000 in its FY 2020 budget during the next fiscal year.

The $800,000 appropriation will be used to operate the recently completed I Guma’ Mina’åse’ Sister Mary Brigid Perez, RSM, Group Child Foster Care Home in Fiscal Year 2021 – and is in addition to the $760,453 appropriation that’s already set aside in the bill for the new foster care home.

Taitague earlier pushed to increase the per pupil appropriation for charter school students from $6,000 to $6,150 by using a portion of the FY 2021 Foster Care Home appropriation – and covering that shortfall with the aforementioned $800,000 continuing appropriation, for a total of $1.29 million next fiscal year.

Based on a $1.2 million budget request submitted by DPHSS for first year operational requirements, an appropriation of $1.29 million would have been more than adequate to fund the Foster Care Home in FY 2021, Taitague said.

However, she added, public health revised the Foster Care Home budget basically overnight and now anticipates requiring both the $760,453 FY 2021 appropriation and the $800,000 continuing appropriation from its FY 2020 budget.

“Although I appreciate and ultimately supported subsequent efforts to increase the per pupil appropriation for charter school students with available excess revenues, I initially proposed to make charter schools and the Foster Care Home whole based on revenues already recognized in the FY 2021 budget bill and $800,000 that’s actually available per OFB and BBMR,” Taitague said

Sen. Amanda Shelton’s amendment would increase appropriations to the Guam Community College by $980,000, which will be earmarked for the Apprenticeship Program to train local workforce.

“In these uncertain times, we continue creating opportunities for our people while responding to the needs of a modern work force through education and training,” Shelton said.

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GCC has created numerous, highly popular boot camps and training programs in partnership with the Department of Labor and local businesses to fill the needs in Guam’s workforce. Most recently, GCC has launched the first-ever paramedic training on Guam with over 36 participants scheduled to be completed in May 2021. GCC will work to duplicate these programs for other industries requiring skilled workers on island.

The funds from this increase to GCC will come from the Manpower Development Fund. Shelton said MDF revenues are anticipated to increase as a result of the expected arrival of foreign laborers who will pick up military projects and other construction developments.

Sen. Kelly Marsh (Taitano) is proposing flexibility in the budget “ to meet the needs of the community in terms of government services, while also navigating predicted revenue shortfalls due to the negative economic impacts of Covid-19.”

“For example, strong concerns were raised this week to locking in potential excess governmental funds, thereby removing the possibility of what many feel is much needed flexibility for navigating next year’s unprecedented landscape of unknowns, aside strong need to provide Public Health additional funding to adequately deal with a global pandemic,” she said.

Marsh (Taitano) proposed both providing flexibility of meeting the unknown needs that might crop up in the coming year with the known needs of Public Health.

Another example is, when looking for funding for the charter schools, she proposed a solution that would have called upon taking very small amounts across a breadth of areas.

“The entire island is struggling right now. People are getting through this by working together, by helping each other, by considering one another. At a time like this, when hard lines are being drawn in the sand and it seems we cannot move ahead, we need more than ever to be willing to embody inafa’maolek to get us there. Our people deserve for us to work together,” Marsh said.


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