Every chance to ‘milk’ the feds
Life is pretty much back to normal. With Covid-19 infections consistently dwindling and yielding statistics that bring a certain level of comfort. And we are now shedding our masks.
But based on Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s April directive, Guam remains under public health emergency until June 3. The extended declaration doesn’t reflect the crisis that we have come to associate “public health emergency” with.
It has nothing to do with a “public health emergency” but is more of a financial strategy to further “milk” the feds.
In 2020, the governor came under fire for saying her administration was "milking" concessions from the federal government in exchange for hosting the Covid-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt. “So, we're milking it,” she said. “We're milking it very hard.”
The governor won’t forego any chance to do so. Ending the public health emergency would jeopardize federal funds that Guam has been receiving, the governor said month in a bid to justify the protraction of her extra powers that have been running for two years. The monthly allotments of $2.3 million in SNAP funds are at stake, she said.
Republican senators have failed to wrangle the Democrats'
support to adopt a resolution that would end the island's public health emergency status. In scorching remarks during a press conference, the governor said the senators’ resolution did not provide an alternative to the $2.3 million in monthly SNAP funds for 15,000 households that Guam might stand to lose.
Obtaining increased SNAP funding for Guam is not a political accomplishment that elected leaders can swagger about, especially during the election year. On the contrary, it is a reflection of their failure to fulfill their campaign promise to raise the quality of life on Guam.
Keeping Guam under a public health emergency status during a situation that doesn’t feel like a public health emergency cheats reality.
“The only crazy aspect of this declaration is that it’s like a boy crying wolf and when there is a true public health emergency, what then do we call it?” Dr. Tom Shieh writes in a Facebook comment. “If the purpose of a public health emergency, is to get money, then it should never end.”
The consequences of an extended public health emergency are more dangerous than losing SNAP funds. It clears the path for the continuation of the tremendous amount of emergency power that the governor wields.
When the pandemic first broke out, Leon Guerrero--like the rest of the U.S. governors—suited up for a new role as the island’s official bouncer, shuttering schools, restaurants and businesses, ordering people to stay home, segregating the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
The governor said the public health emergency has allowed her to hire people and expedite the procurement of products and services to respond quickly to the Covid-19 emergency.
Ironically, her justifications for her emergency powers are exactly the reasons that give senators anxiety.
The governor has made decisions behind the iron curtain, telling senators to stay away from the federal Covid funds. Subsequent audits by the Office of Public Accountability revealed rampant abuse that resulted from unchecked power. Hence extending it can be pernicious.
We abided by the emergency rules but we never agreed to make the emergency power a permanent deal.
Power can be addictive, but it’s time for the governor to give it up and restore checks and balances in government. It's time to adopt a clear economic recovery plan-- a real strategy other than milking the feds.