- By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Senators: Mad scramble for stimulus funds creates 'Hunger Games' scenario
Governor urged to lift the cap on ALL RISE payouts
Several Guam residents rose early this morning and headed to the Department of Revenue and Taxation to file their applications for the ALL Rise Act, hoping to be among the lucky ones to receive the stimulus money before funds run out.
"As the saying goes, early birds catch the worms," said Eloisa Perez, of Dededo, who camped out with her husband and son at the DRT parking lot as early as 6 p.m. "We badly need this money and we thought we should come early before the program ends."
As the application process for the stimulus program begins today, its implementation creates confusion due to the conflicting versions between the governor’s ALL RISE and the legislature’s amended RISE Act.
Senators on Tuesday night voted 10-2 to override Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s veto of Bill 75-36, which raises the stimulus amount from $800 to $1,000 per individual filer and from $1,600 to $2,000 per joint filers, extends the program by six months, and lifts the $30 million cap set by the governor.
The governor’s ALL RISE sets the amount at $800 and $1,600 will be distributed "according to an aggressive schedule on a first-in, first-out basis until the $30 million allocation is exhausted."
In order to be eligible for the ALL RISE program, individuals "must elect to receive payments under this program in lieu of any payments that may be available under the RISE Act, Executive Order 2021-11, and Bills 75-36 and 164-36," according to DRT.
As of 9 a.m., DRT has processed 600 drive-thru and 300 over-the-counter applications, according to the governor's office.
Senators asked the governor to lift the cap on payments lest it creates a mad scramble among claimants competing for the stimulus funds.
“Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, as you sat comfortably at home last night, hundreds of island residents started parking their vehicles at the Department of Revenue and Taxation as early as 7 p.m.,” said Sen. James Moylan, author of Bill 75-36.
“They were afraid of your ‘first come-first served’ statement and more fearful of the reality that after all the obstacles you have made them endure, that they may not receive their share of the program,” Moylan said.
“We are in a crisis and residents need to take care of their families. They should not be placed in a situation that seems like a scene from the movie ‘Hunger Games, where only the strong and agile are left to survive. Where is the decency?” he added.
Moylan apologized to the claimants “for the inconveniences your government has created with the Rise Act, or in this case, the All Rise Act.”
Because of the cap on the total payouts and the first come first served provision, the mad rush to get applications in is resulting in total chaos in both the online and in-person application submissions, according to Sen. Tony Ada, co-author of the bill.
“Our people are frustrated, angry, and disheartened. Please rectify this situation now. I respectfully call on you to lift the cap on the total All Rise payments. Do this now and let the thousands of our residents know that they will receive the funds without fear that funding will be exhausted before they can apply,” he added.
Sen. Telo Taitague joined the call for the lifting of the cap.
“Governor, while I appreciate your decision to finally make ARP funds available to our families who are struggling to get through the public health emergency, I can’t ignore the fact that the rollout of the ALL RISE Program is creating additional hardship for these same families,” Taitague said in a letter to the governor.
“Moreover, the policies that we develop as elected leaders should support – not overburden – the hardworking employees of DRT who continue to do their best to implement this and other economic assistance programs for our families.”
Sen. Sabina Perez, in a separate letter to the governor, said DRT’s guidance has also created previously unforeseen disadvantages for certain individuals.
"Those who have either filed their returns after the date at which DRT has processed returns or filed their returns late because they don’t make enough income to warrant filing a return, are inadvertently placed in a queue that isn’t on a 'first received, first payout' basis," Perez said.
"This is the population in most need. They are our manåmko’, people with disabilities, and those who are working two jobs to try to put food on the table. These inequities are exacerbated due to the limited funding available for the All RISE program."