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  • By Pacifc Island Times News Staff

Guam seeking inclusion in new federal relief package

As the details of a $908 billion coronavirus relief package are being hammered out by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both Houses of the United States Congress, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero is working with governors across the nation to ensure that Guam is included.

The $908 billion plan is being eyed by some as the baseline for a new aid package lawmakers plan to attach to an omnibus fiscal 2021 spending bill.

This is a one-week stopgap measure to buy more time to write the massive package and vote on it this week. Introduction of the planning framework by members of the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus last week was followed by high-level discussions throughout the weekend and bipartisan endorsements to varying degrees. President-elect Joe Biden endorsed the plan with little equivocation.

The overall aid plan attempts to find a middle ground on coronavirus relief between the roughly $500 billion pushed by Senate Republicans and $2.4 trillion backed by House Democrats. The package would provide $180 billion for unemployment benefits, $288 billion for small businesses, $160 billion in aid to state and local governments, and a temporary liability shield for small businesses, among many other things.

In addition to a new round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, the measure could extend a program that provides unemployment benefits to those who have exhausted them for a month, along with a program that grants unemployment benefits to those who don't traditionally qualify for them, such as "gig" workers and the self-employed.

“We are working personally with the National Governors Association and my friends Governor Ige of Hawaii and Governor Cuomo of New York to include Guam in any high level discussions involving coronavirus relief efforts for the states and territories,” said Gov. Leon Guerrero.

“These benefits are a matter of economic life and death for Guam and millions of Americans across the country. That is why we’ve also made contact with our allies in the U.S. Senate and Speaker Pelosi of the House. We’ve reached out to the White House itself and our friends in the incoming Biden administration to ensure that Team Guam’s message is clear: Four million Americans live in Guam and the U.S. territories; We are vital to this nation’s defense and economic prosperity, and our people need this stimulus package just as much as everyone else.”

Leon Guerrero has written letters to Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Chair of the Senate Resources committee; Senator Joseph Manchin III, Vice Chair of the Senate Resources Committee; Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee; and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ensure Guam and its sister territories are not forgotten. She has also reached out to Congressman Michael San Nicolas and CNMI Congressman Gregorio Kilili Sablan expressing her support for their efforts.

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