US military to launch housing survey
Military personnel in government-owned, government-leased or privately leased housing will be asked to take part in an annual voluntary survey to gauge satisfaction, according to a Nov. 30 release from the U.S. Department of Defense.
An “independent third party” is conducting the survey across all service branches.
Military personnel have complained about the condition of housing across the nation, to include Guam. Personnel have also sued with allegations that range from mold to pest infestation.
The U.S. Army survey released in July 2019 showed a drop in satisfaction in all housing categories.
Island gets unique visitors
The U.S. Navy announced that French Navy Rubis-class nuclear attack submarine FS Émeraude and Loire-class tender and support vessel FS Seine arrived at Naval Base Guam on Dec. 2.
“Seine and Émeraude are in the Western Pacific on a routine deployment demonstrating the strength of our bilateral relationship and mutual commitment to stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region,” the U.S. Navy said.
In other military news, Andersen Air Force Base on Dec. 3 lifted restrictions on retirees, Guard, reserve, and veteran members with access. Some COVID restrictions will still apply regarding entry etc. to for example the clinic and the exchange, according to a Dec. 2 release.
NDAA has good news for Guam
With bi-partisan agreement in Congress, the final language of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act will extend H-2b labor authorization to civilian projects on Guam, although those will still require approval from the U.S. military.
H.R. 6395 will proceed with final adoption and signature into law by President Trump. The language referencing Guam can be found on page 4472 of the conference report to accompany H.R. 6395 on www.congress.gov.
NMI governor lifts price freeze
The Office of the Governor announced Dec. 3 the lifting of the Northern Mariana Islands price freeze that had been in effect since March 5. Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres told the Journal at a recent press briefing that a decision whether to lift the price freeze or not would be made around the beginning of December. The Saipan Chamber of Commerce lobbied Torres to lift the freeze in mid-November on behalf of NMI businesses.
FSM cancels repatriation flight and Christmas Drop
The FSM has canceled its Dec. 5 repatriation flight and the planned Christmas Drop flight to deliver boxes throughout its islands.
The cancellation of the repatriation flight is due to what President David W. Panuelo said on Dec. 1 was “an emerging capacity shortfall issue with our healthcare responders at the Pohnpei State Hospital.” In addition, he said, “We are cancelling Operation Christmas Drop this year not due to a lack of trust and confidence, but due to ongoing concerns from our citizens in our most remote and vulnerable communities about the COVID-19 pandemic.”
After testing negative, 41 persons were in a Guam pre-quarantine facility, anticipating repatriation to the FSM. On their return to the FSM, a 21-day quarantine would have awaited them.
President David W. Panuelo and the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia extended the health emergency order for the FSM to Jan. 21. The latest order removes all outbound travel restrictions, according to a Nov. 30 release, but reminded citizens that return dates cannot be confirmed. Economic provisions, such as cargo shipping and at-sea transshipment of fish, remain in place and unaltered.
The Christmas Drop will still drop packages to other islands, Andersen Air Force Base confirmed.
In other FSM news, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced Nov. 26 $1,53 million in Compact of Free Association and CARES Act funding has been approved to help build several quarantine buildings in the State of Kosrae.
The Christmas Drop will go ahead and will “drop” goods to other islands.
Coast Guard confirms second FRC arrival
The second Fast Response Cutter to be stationed in Guam has arrived on island as expected and earlier reported by the Journal.
According to a Dec. 1 release, the US CGC Oliver Henry docked in Guam Nov. 30. See “Home for the holidays; second CG cutter set for Guam, third in training,” in the Nov. 2 issue of the Journal, or on www.mbjguam.com.
NMI gets additional PUC funding
The Northern Mariana Islands Department of Labor announced Nov. 30 it received an additional $27,57 million for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. The additional funds will cover payments from September through November.
As of Nov. 12, 36,602 PUA and FPUC claims were processed through the hiremarianas.com portal. Of these, 17,931 claims were confirmed as fraudulent and ineligible applicants, which delayed disbursement of funds, the release said.
Guam OPA reviews GovGuam COVID spending
The Office of Public Accountability released Report No. 20-08, on Government of Guam Coronavirus Relief Fund Expenditures-Part I. The OPA found that GovGuam generally followed the policies and procedures provided by the Coronavirus Relief Fund Guidance for State, Territorial, Local and Tribal Governments.
In a Nov. 30 release, the OPA said the government generally followed eligible expenditure guidelines, but
- a) GovGuam lacked specific processes and control activities for the CRF;
- b) certain approved budget amounts lacked pertinent information and exceeded agencies’ request ($12.2 million); and
- c) some approved budget requests are questionable based on their description and/or cost in the Spending Plan ($25 million).
Guam’s Bureau of Budget Management and Research provided more than 923 pages of spreadsheets and documents in its response, the release said., which reflected an update on the details and subsequent modifications of allocations on the approved budged expenditures.
OPA recommended the Department of Administration “design and implement control activities by adopting written policies and procedures specific for coronavirus relief funds and other financial assistance, and … DOA and BBMR management … comply with the monthly reporting requirements for all COVID-19 expenditures.”
The report can be found at www.opaguam.org.
- Guam Regional Medical City advised Nov. 30 it has set up an outpatient tent clinic to “distribute the drug Bamlanivimab to COVID patients with mild to moderate symptoms. Guam received a limited number of doses of the “single-dose, intravenous therapy was recently given Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” a release said.
- The NMI on Nov. 30 announced its 105th COVID positive case, identified on arrival in Saipan.
- Guam announced 36 COVID positive cases on Nov. 30. As of Nov. 30, the COVID Area Risk or CAR Score is 2. The CAR Score accounts for the incidence of new cases, how well current testing identifies these cases, and the rate of spread.
- A federal grant of nearly $1 million will help increase COVID-19 testing among Pacific Islanders in Guam and Hawaii and seek to reveal infection patterns in those populations. The University of Guam is one of several partners in the “Puipuia le Ola” project of the University of Hawaii, funded by the National Institutes of Health, that will be “developing and evaluating culturally tailored community engagement strategies to be disseminated in the native languages of Pacific Islander communities,” according to a Nov. 27 release. Residents originating from other islands in Micronesia comprise 7% of Guam’s population but account for 14% of COVID-19 cases, UOG said.
Group launches points plan
IT&E and IP&E announced Dec. 3 the launch of PACIFICPOINTS, a loyalty program that awards points that can be redeemed for vouchers for purchases at IT&E, Shell and Foody’s Guam or converted to United MileagePlus.
Customers in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands will earn either one or two points per dollar in group brands, redeemable for discounts and vouchers.
To learn more about PACIFICPOINTS or to sign up, visit pacificpoints.com or download the mobile app. For additional updates, follow PACIFICPOINTS on Instagram (@pacificpointsofficial) and Facebook (@pacificpoints). For more information about IT&E’s December promotions and how to earn 500 bonus points, visit ite.net or call (671) 922-4483 (Guam) / (670) 682-4483 (NMI).
T Galleria by DFS reopened Nov. 27 and will remain open through December, DFS said in a Nov. 25 announcement. The store is offering up to 70% off on fashionwear, watches, jewelry, beauty products and accessories. mbj