By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Guam receives $553M from ARPA; governor asked to prioritize RISE
Guam has received its allocation of $553 million in coronavirus state fiscal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the governor's office announced today.
These funds are part of the U.S. Treasury’s $4.5 billion allocations for U.S. territories. Separate allocations of amounts appropriated to counties, non-entitlement units (non-metropolitan governments), and amounts allocated from the Capital Projects Fund have yet to be disbursed.
“This pandemic has undoubtedly tested us. But as a people, like many times before, we stood together. This crisis has not only revealed our weaknesses, but it reaffirmed our strengths. Now, it is time to invest in a recovery that leaves no one behind,” Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said. “Soon, we will be unveiling an investment road map that benefits everyone and rebuilds a stronger Guam.”
Speaker Therese Terlaje urged the governor to immediately prepare to distribute the payments under the Recovery Income Support and Empowerment (RISE) program that applies to individuals with income below $40,000.
Public Law 35-136 earmarks $30 million for the RISE program, which will grant a one-time payment of $800 for each eligible individual and $1,600 for joint filers.
"You have said publicly that you want to expand the program, which is your prerogative, but it is not necessary to withhold this amount from those in need while trying to figure out the spending plan for the rest of the $553 million," Terlaje said in a letter to the governor.
"The law was passed last year with several options of funding sources. The president of the Mayors Council of Guam announced one of the food programs ends in May. These funds will help many to put food on the table and cover other basic needs," the speaker said.
Sen. James Moylan has proposed a bill that would raise the RISE payout from $800 to $1,000 for individuals and $1,600 to $2,000 for joint filers.
In total, Guam expects to receive $604 million, which is equivalent to more than 63 percent of the government's 2021 budget of $949 million.
On Thursday, Congressman Michael San Nicolas raised concern about the delayed transmittal of the funds allocated for Guam, suggesting that the administration might have not submitted a spending plan.
The governor's office said the U.S. Treasury released last week the interim final rule that provided details of the eligible uses that address the effects of the Covid-19 public health emergency.
“We continue to examine the interim guidance that will likely change after the comment period ends and feedback is incorporated into the final guidance. Meanwhile, we are assessing our local aid programs to build upon, such as the Guam Small Business Pandemic Grant Program and the Small Business Rent Assistance Grant Program,” the governor said.
“We are considering expanding other existing programs to help more people and creating new ones to provide additional aid and improve public services," she added.
Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio said Guam’s improved fiscal outlook provides a stable foundation onto which the island can rebuild a thriving economy.
"These funds will be dedicated to our long-term growth in order to realize the prosperous future we all envision," Tenorio said. "Our investment road map will provide continued confidence that we will come out of this pandemic better and stronger than ever before.”
On Thursday, SDan Nicolas and Sen. James Moylan discussed the Republicans' proposed economic recovery initiatives.
These initiatives include:
1. Displaced Employees Workforce Incentive (DEWI) - This program would create a grant for Private Sector Employees to apply to hire individuals who were furloughed/released due to the pandemic. The DEWI mandates full-time employment inclusive of benefits, and the grant shall solely pay for the salary, as the employer would have to incur all the other expenses. The commitment of the employer is to keep the individual for one year, and it would be their option if they would like to keep them after (preferably they do). The DEWI would create hundreds of new private-sector jobs.
2. Business Startup Incentive (BSI) - This program would create a grant for individuals who would like to open a new small business. Awards would be between $5,000 to $25,000, and this would be an initial infusion for one who would like to convert their talents into a startup business. The BSI would create new businesses and help many families diversify their income.
3. Para I Publiku (PIP) - This program would provide every eligible resident (using the standards established in the initial federal stimulus plan) a $500 debit card to spend at local establishments. The money would be kept on the island, and the PIP would infuse the local economy through spending.
4. Guam Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) - This program would provide eligible residents with a grant to assist with utility and energy payments, similar to the federal LIHEAP program. This would be a local program with eligibility established locally, and the HEAP would assist many families from facing utility disconnections.
5. Atkilon Guma’ Assistance Program(AGA) - This program would provide eligible residents with a grant to assist with home rental payments. This would be a local program with eligibility established locally, and the AGA would assist many families from facing evictions.
6. Increasing the payout of the Rise Act from $800 to $1,000 for individuals and $1,600 to $2,000 for joint filers. These families had to wait much longer than anticipated, thus additional payment should be provided.