By Mar-Vic Cagurangan Finally responding to a stream of letters from Sen. James Moylan which she has repeatedly shunned, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero stood pat on her decision not to implement the legislature's version of the Recovery Income Support and Empowerment or RISE Act, claiming it is a defective law that violates federal rules. Scolding Moylan in her seven-page letter, the governor reiterated the legislature “has no authority to require the use of federal funds” received through the American Rescue Plan without congressional authorization. “The short response to your inquiries is this: do better research. Your position on this matter is ill-informed, and the actions you are advocating for are reckless and, worse, illegal,” the governor wrote. “It is unfathomable that you, a candidate for Congress, seek to involve our island in blatant violation of federal law.” Moylan, the Republican Party’s candidate for the Guam delegate seat in Congress, sent several letters to Leon Guerrero, prodding her to implement the RISE Act as amended, which the governor has pushed aside and replaced with her own All RISE program. In his last letter, Moylan included his new proposal under Bill 326-36, which would eliminate the income threshold as a requirement for eligibility and make the RISE Act program available across the board. “To be clear, even assuming that the Guam legislature is authorized to reappropriate funds provided in the CARES Act or the ARP, which is not, the payments contemplated in the RISE Act, the (RISE Act Amendment) and especially in Bill 326-36, would violate federal law,” the governor said. “Because you are a candidate for Guam’s only seat in Congress, I urge you to familiarize yourself with the federal law at issue so that you do not inadvertently call for action that blatantly violates the law in your effort to get elected,” Leon Guerrero added.
Other senators previously tried to get the governor to disburse the balance of $300 million in federal Covid relief funds to help alleviate the impact of rapidly climbing inflation which is compounded by a new power rate hike.
The governor has earmarked the remaining $300 million for a yet-to-take-off hospital project.
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The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds or SLFRF, is a component of ARP that provides funds to U.S. jurisdictions to support response and recovery efforts for the Covid-19 public health emergency.
“However, jurisdictions are not given carte blanche to use funds at their whim,” the governor said.
She said the use of ARP funds is subject to restrictions enumerated in the U.S. Department of Treasury’s SLFRF final rule, which came into effect on April 1.
“States and territories are required to comply with mandatory periodic reporting requirements, and funds determined to have been used in violation of the final rule are subject to remediation and recoupment,” Leon Guerrero said.
Public Law 36-53, which was sponsored by Moylan, amended the original RISE Act by raising the stimulus payment from $800 to $1,000 per individual tax filer and $2,000 for joint filers. The RISE Act Amendment became a public law when the legislature overrode the governor's veto of the measure.
Leon Guerrero said the amended RISE Act did not change the alternative funding source of FY2021 general fund appropriations.
The governor said both the RISE Act and the RISE Act Amendment were "problematic" when they were passed.
"Though both laws stated that funds may be transferred from FY21 general fund appropriations, executive branch agencies had been shortchanged in the FY21 budget, and the transfer of $30 million from these agencies was plainly untenable even at the time of the original RISE Act," she said.
"Further, by the express terms of both, the RISE Act and the RAA authorized but did not mandate payments in the event local funds were the only available funding source; payments were only 'required' if they could be funded utilizing federal funds," she added.
Read the full text of the governor's letter here.