The government must set aside at least half of Guam's allocation from the American Rescue Plan until the island gets a clearer picture of its post-coronavirus economy, Sen. Frank F. Blas Jr.
“With our tourism market not expected to be anywhere near pre-pandemic levels anytime soon and the bulk of the thousands receiving PUA coming from that industry, we need to brace ourselves and have something to work with when the federal aid ends," Blas said.
"We’re fortunate to have received the ARP funding, however, let’s not blow our fortune by going on a spending spree now and not have anything to rescue our community if our situation worsens,” he added.
With the stream of Covid relief grants ending in September, Blas said a major portion of the ARP money should be earmarked for rebuilding the community.
The Republican senator wrote to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Speaker Therese Terlaje suggesting that Guam's share of the ARP be directed more toward helping those most adversely affected by the pandemic instead of funding the government's caprice.
Of the $664 million expected from ARP, Guam received an initial amount of $503 million.
The Guam Legislature has listed 44 programs and agencies considered for funding through ARP.
Blas, however, said only 12 entries, worth a total of $120.6 million, could be considered direct assistance to the community, while everything else is reserved the government.
"While this would have been palatable in less desperate times, the fact of the matter is that our economy came to a near-screeching halt and we’re not out of the woods yet," Blas said.
Blas requested that the funding levels recommended for many of the agencies identified in Resolution 93-36 be reduced and held until the effects of the expiration of the PUA are realized later this year.
Of the $664 million calculated in Resolution 93-36 as coming from ARP and other federal government pandemic assistance programs, Blas asked that $315 million be reduced from the recommended allocations to the government of Guam and held in reserve until the community needs to further recover from the pandemic are realized.
Blas asked the governor to consider the many thousands of citizens who are still displaced from work and continue to find it difficult to make ends meet.
With the end of the distribution of PUA looming and Guam's tourism industry not expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon enough, Blas said it would be sensible "to hold off on allocating at least half of the anticipated $664 million until we have a clearer picture of where our economy is at the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2022."
“I acknowledge that the governor has the final say on how the money will be used. I needed to make sure though that I expressed my concern for the welfare of the community. It would be nice to get what the government wants, however it’s only right that we first address what the community needs,” Blas said.