Senators propose spending plans for Guam's new Covid-19 relief grants
Three senators have introduced six bills that would tap the new federal Covid-19 relief package for program aimed at rebuilding Guam's economy.
Guam stands to receive $660 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed into law Wednesday.
For Guam, Rep. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas said the enactment of the American Rescue Plan means "we materially shift our pandemic circumstances and our historical fiscal deficiencies, positioning Guam stronger than ever before for the future, bringing needed relief in the present, and realizing the greatest level of federal support for our island and people than we have ever seen in the past."
Biden said the American Rescue Plan is "about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people and middle-class folks, the people who built the country — a fighting chance. That’s what the essence of it is."
"These federal funds are a much welcome infusion for our economy and stability, and before funds are quietly expended on contracts and political hires, we felt it would be irresponsible if a percentage of these funds were not placed directly into the hands of island residents," Republican Sens. James Moylan, Tony Ada, and Chris Duenas said in a joint statement upon introducing their bills.
The new set of bills, they said, is part of their “Let’s Get Guam Moving” Initiative," which seeks to address the need to create local programs to assist thousands of island residents.
Moylan, Ada and Duenas have proposed using some of these monies to address programs which will go directly into the hands of the community.
They include the following:
1. Increasing the payout from Public Law 35-136, The RISE Act, which was enacted in December of 2020, however, has yet to be enforced. The measure would increase the financial support for eligible residents from $800 to $1,000 for individuals, and $1,600 to $2,000 for joint filers.
2. The Displaced Employee Workforce Incentive Act of 2021 would appropriate funds into a grant program to create hundreds of full-time private sector jobs.
3. The Business Startup Incubation Act of 2021 would create a grant program to create new small businesses and encourage financial independence.
4. The Para I Publiku Act of 2021 would establish a debit card program, provided to eligible island residents to spend at local business establishments, and to inject $30 million into Guam’s economy.
5. The Guam Home Energy Assistance Act of 2021 (HEAP) would create a local grant assistance program to provide support for eligible residents with utility payments and energy costs.
6. The Atkilón Guma’ Assistance Act of 2021 (AGA) would create a local grant assistance program to provide support for eligible residents with home rentals.
The Republican senators said the “Let’s Get Guam Moving” Initiative is designed to stimulate millions of dollars into Guam’s economy through the creation of new jobs, businesses, and taxes, while assuring families are not pressured with utility disconnections and home evictions.
"While Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has insisted that she is the only party authorized to expend federal funds, precedence was set in 2020 with the enactment of two pieces of legislation (one which was signed into law by the governor, and the second allowed to lapse into law), which proposed funding options inclusive of federal relief funds for community-based programs," the senators said in a statement.
"These proposals mirror the spending options provided to the governor in those previous measures."