By Bea Cabrera
Guam gets $553 million from American Rescue Plan
Guam will receive $553 million in new Covid relief aid, which forms part of the $4.5 billion allocations for U.S. territories under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Delegate Michael San Nicholas announced today.
“These funds will be used to meet pandemic response needs to build a stronger and more equitable economy as the country recovers,” San Nicolas said. “We at the legislature have outlined different priorities we’d like to see addressed with respect to how the money should be used.”
Guam is sharing this component of the ARPA with American Samoa, the CNMI, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Starting today, eligible state, territorial metropolitan city, county and tribal governments may request coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds through the Treasury submission portal,” he said.
“These funds are much-needed relief to support urgent Covid-19 response efforts, to continue to decrease the spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control, to replace lost public sector revenue, strengthen and support vital public services, help retain jobs, support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses and to address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the inequality impact of the pandemic on certain populations,” he added.
San Nicolas noted that the Covid funds cannot be used for any pension obligation or pension funding, or to subsidize a reduction in tax, lower taxes or offset.
The funds are targeted to address the following:
· Public health response that includes services and programs to contain and mitigate the spread of Covid-19;
· Behavioral healthcare-related to mental crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as substance abuse, and other behavioral health issues, crisis intervention service or outreach to promote access to health and social services;
· Economic impact caused by the Covid-19 related public health emergency;
· Support for small businesses affected by the pandemic, including investments in Covid-19 prevention and mitigation, as well as technical assistance and counseling programs to enable small businesses to rebound from the downturn;
· For recovery of tourism by supporting industries that were particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 emergency, and are just now beginning to mend similarly impacted sectors within a local area are also eligible for support;
· Rebuilding public sector capacity by rehiring public sector staff and replenishing unemployment insurance trust funds;
· Addressing health disparities and the social determinants of health through funding for community health workers, public benefits navigators’ remediation of hazards and community violence intervention programs;
· Investments in housing and neighborhoods, such as services to address individuals experiencing homelessness, affordable housing development housing vouchers and residential counseling and housing navigation assistance to facilitate moves to neighborhoods with high economic opportunity;
· Provide additional resources to high poverty school districts and offering educational services that tutoring or after school programs as well as services to address social, emotional, and mental health needs;
· Replacement for lost public sector revenue. State, local, territorial and tribal governments that are facing budget shortfalls, may use the coronavirus state and local fiscal recovery funds to avoid cuts to government services;
· Premium pay for essential workers; Item6 investing on water, sewer and infrastructure;
· Investment in broadband infrastructure;
San Nicolas said these guidelines can apply to the priorities set by the legislature but reiterated that these would need to be revalidated by the U.S. Treasury.
The priorities include
· The implementation of the RISE program that will give direct assistance to individuals and provide premium pay for essential workers on small business pandemic assistance program and economic development authority programs;
· Help the Guam Families program; to expand health care services for the department of health and public and social services priority;
· Replace lost public sector revenue for the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority… funds for services and programs to contain and mitigate the spread of Covid 19 could be used to make a case for providing the 22 million to GMH for the existing hospital, and maybe for the 200 million for the new hospital;
· Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center could potentially be funded by Item1B under the mental health provisions, as well as Item4, which is the replacing lost public revenue;
· The Guam Water Works Authority is looking to use some of the funds to repair pipelines and to connect sewer lines to outlying areas;
· Funding the Guam Visitors Bureau…as well as Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency, the Guam Regional Transit Authority… the Mayor's Council to purchase equipment to conduct full-scale village beautification programs;
· Funds to Department of Land Management to improve the public's access to public land information
· Guam Solid Waste Authority
· Funds for the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, Chamorro Land Trust Commission, The Chamorro Language Commission and the Council on Arts and Humanities
· Technology upgrade for the Department of Administration, Guam Police Department, the Guam Fire Department, the Department of Corrections and Department of Youth Affairs and Judiciary of Guam; Similar technology upgrade for Department of Revenue and Taxation for them to automate their services, Department of Agriculture, Guam Environmental Protection Agency
· Guam Veterans Affairs Office
· Workforce training diversification and direct student aid for the Department of Labor. Funds for Guam Community College, the University of Guam, the Guam Academy Charter schools.
Speaker Therese Terlaje, who facilitated the online presentation commended the legislature for the tremendous collaboration with regard on how the ARPA funding would be spent. “I am grateful for the detailed work and this would surely benefit the people of Guam,” she said. “I am happy that we are going to spend a lot of the money in the areas outlined because we believe that these are priorities.”
She noted that the guidelines and views are very specific. “I promise to further collaborate and I think this is the only way to move forward,” she added