HR 6800 includes chunk of change for territories and residents

Assuming it passes, the next round of stimulus funding will have significant funding, not only for the territories but for their residents.

Michael San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress spoke with select media May 13 about ramifications and funding for Guam in House Resolution 6800, also known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions or HEROES Act, which folds in earlier provisions of HR 6321.

HR 6800 includes $2.68 billion in funding for Guam for 2020, and $106 million for 2021.

It includes:

  • Funding for governments
  • Another round of economic impact payments that will this time cover students in households up to age 24 and adult dependents
  • A payment for 33 different types of workers of $13 per hour
  • Homeowner assistance and tenant based rental assistance
  • Veteran assistance
  • Funding for COBRA for the unemployed
  • EITC funding
  • Extended unemployment through January
  • CIP funding for hospitals.

Specifically, San Nicolas said the Act includes $10 billion for the five territories, within 30 days of its enactment.

The funding for homeowners could be used to offset expenses such as mortgages, property tax and utilities, he said. Rental assistance would allow tenants to pay landlords and “should cover all rental properties on-island,” he said.

As to Sen. Clynton Ridgell’s bill to offer tenants relief, he told the Journal, “It’s very well intentioned. However, he said, “It represents an unconstitutional taking and forces losses on commercial properties.” Unlike the Congressional measure, he said the bill does not provide funding.

Other support will cover disabled veterans, non-VA hospitals, private medical care and transportation. Funding will also cover SNAP, WIC, money for local food banks, farmers, hazard pay for essential workers.

Guam will see $6 million for the territorial highway program, a 75% reimbursement for Earned Income Tax Credit and its share of 28 block grants.

As to funding for essential workers “for the duration of the COVID emergency,” this includes “33 enumerated areas for work,” San Nicolas said, and would cover $13 per hour pay in addition to regular pay, up to $10,000. Unlike U.S. Department of :Labor unemployment assistance, which has a cap of $345 and up per week, and local funding for lower earning workers that also has a cap, the expansion of the essential worker program has a much higher cap – those earning more than $200,000, who would still receive up to $5,000.

The 33 areas would include first responders, but additional areas that range from pharmacy work, to home based care and behavioral work, grocery and restaurant work, transportation including work on vehicles and transportation of goods and mail, aircraft and maritime work, ship repair and warehousing, maintenance, news media, dental care, hotel and lodging, and more.

The act also allows for various tax credits for living expenses, employee retention, GRT credit and also affects the definition of “large employer,” San Nicolas said.

It also includes welcome legislation concerning Compact of Fee Association migrants, which “will be covered under Medicaid and no longer under the GovGuam MIP program,”  San Nicolas said.

A link to the more than 1,800-page act is provided here for reader convenience:

https://www.novoco.com/sites/default/files/atoms/files/hr_6800_051220.pdf

As to approval and disbursement, San Nicolas told the Journal the approval process would use “the same channels already created,” or through the Government of Guam.

Assuming the act passes on Friday – when it will be put to the House vote – San Nicolas said after that, “There may be some challenges on the Senate side.” He had asked the Republican National Committee for help, he said. “If we get a hard pushback, it could be delayed for some time,” he said.

“I believe there is a strong demand at the state, territory and municipal level for support. I hope we can preserve as many of these provisions as possible.”

He said the $2.68 billion can be used in the same way as Guam’s $117 million through the CARES Act – on any of the negative impact of COVID-19. “We have some opportunities to pump economic support into the community,” he said. The administration could offer a BPT or property tax rebate, he said. “There’s a lot of flexibility.” – Further news on the act will be posted as it becomes available.

            The Northern Mariana Islands will receive $2.9 billion through the act, according to a May 13 release from Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI delegate to Congress.

 

In other news:

The Guam Power Authority/Guam Waterworks Authority Fadian location will open the customer service lobby and a new drive through window from May 14. A drop box will also be available.

GWA will also be open at its Upper Tumon and Julale Center locations.

GWA customers 55 and over will receive priority service Tuesday and Thursdays to noon.

 

UOG goes round and round
            The University of Guam will hold its third virtual session on island sustainability on May 15, this time on the circular economy.

             A circular economy cuts out waste and pollution, keeps materials in use, and regenerates natural systems, according to the university.

            Free registration is available at  www.uog.edu/cis2020, with further details available on the UOG website.