Residents of the Mariana Islands get utilities hike relief
The Commonwealth Utility Corp. confirmed that as at Aug. 25, about 12,000 Northern Mariana Islands residential accounts had received a “utility stimulus credit” of $300. Credits of the same amount will be given in September and October, for a total of $900.
Guam Power Authority account holders are seeing a $200 credit to their bills in August – which includes the $100 credit for July. Stimulus payments are due through November, for a total of $500.
FSM moves ahead with $75 million-plus road construction programs
With Yap, Kosrae, and Pohnpei implementing fully open borders (with Chuuk to open on Nov. 1), three World Bank consulting teams have arrived in the Federated States of Micronesia, and “are working on the assessment and design” of the FSM’s Strategic Climate-Oriented Road Enhancement program., also known as SCORE. The World Bank is funding the $35.3 million SCORE program, which covers 12 miles of secondary roads in the FSM, discarded vehicles, and a materials testing laboratory to improve the quality of road construction works.
In launching SCORE, President David W. Panuelo “called upon the Department of Transportation, Communication, & Infrastructure (as the implementing agency), and the Department of Finance & Administration (as the executing agency) to ensure that relevant SCORE Project timelines are diligently followed, and that all stakeholders work supportively to attain the Project’s goals and objectives,” according to an Aug. 26 release.
SCORE complements the FSM Priority Road Improvements & Management Enhancements or PRIME Project, which focuses on primary and/or arterial roads and bridges.
The two projects are part of Panuelo’s Pave the Nation initiative and combine for about $75,250,000 of World Bank funding roads in the FSM, according to the release.
The World Bank has a resident representative in the FSM.
Palau VP takes to the road
Taiwan media are reporting that Palau Vice President J. Uduch Sengebau Sr. will visit Taipei from Aug. 27 to Aug. 31. During her stay the vice president will meet with
President Tsai Ing-wen and Vice President Lai Ching-te and attend a banquet hosted by Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
Cleanup of Super Typhoon Yutu debris inTinian moving ahead
Substantial progress has been made in the removal of debris from Super Typhoon Yutu, after a fire in June at the site in Tinian where it was being stored, according to an Aug. 24 release from the Northern Mariana Islands Office of Planning and Development. Contractor Allied Pacific Environmental Consulting Inc. is expected to complete the processing and shipping of metal recyclables by October, after beginning work in early July.
Metal debris will be sent to Saipan and recycled by subcontractor Triple Star Recycling, according to OPD.
Allied Pacific recently received soil sample test results, which will help with the decision on how the remaining waste present at the site will be managed and disposed. Information gathered from this disaster will be included in the NMI’s Comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, to ensure safer, more sustainable debris management and to promote zero waste principles in the NMI, according to OPD.
Guam unemployment rate improves
The unemployment rate for Guam fell to 5.1% in March – the lowest since pre-pandemic levels. The figure represents a drop of 2.1 percentage points from December 2021, when the unemployment rate was 7.2%. Total payroll employment rose by 2,210 year-over-year, from 60,070 employees on payroll in March 2021 compared to 62,280 in March.
Unemployment peaked in December 2020 at 19.4% in Guam, due to the pandemic. Unemployment decreased every quarter to 16.5% in March 2021, 11.4% in June 2021, 8.1% in September 2021, and 7.2% in December 2021.
The pre-pandemic unemployment rate was at 6.1% in December 2019 and at 4.6% in June 2019, according to Journal files.
Other media releases the week of Aug. 22 included the following news from the Office of the Governor:
The number of H-2B workers exceeded 3,000 – a number that the Guam Department of Labor forecast would occur last year, according to Journal files.
Current forecasts are that DOL expects to see up to 4,600 H-2B workers on island by the end of fiscal 2023 and possibly over 5,000 workers in fiscal Year 2024. According to Journal files, estimates to DOL from the U.S. Department of Defense in 2019 were that Guam was expected to be in the 5,000 to 6,000 foreign worker range by 2020.
But aside from an earlier inability to bring in foreign labor, several factors have affected the pace of construction and the current increased need for workers. These include the pandemic, earlier lapsed or unawarded Multiple Award Construction contracts, and recent federal grants to the Mariana Islands – for example for post-typhoon reconstruction in the Northern Mariana Islands.
The timeline has been extended for the Guam military realignment and at the same time brought a surge in military construction awards to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Guam Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola signed off on $465,000 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance waivers, making the total in approved waivers approximately $8.5 million.
Guam’s 2023 federal income tax Section 30 advance payments of $70,398,471 will be made the week of Sept. 5. Section 30 revenues include federal income tax withholding from uniformed and non-uniformed federal employees and retirees in Guam. Advance payments can be adjusted by millions. The government of Guam estimates the amount of Section 30 revenues due in fiscal year planning.
The Federal Employees Health Benefit Program has renewed with Calvo’s SelectCare, and finalized its FEHB program benefits and rates with the Office of Personnel Management for the 2023 calendar year.
For your diary:
Aug. 27 – Guam’s primary election will decide Guam’s future Democratic gubernatorial team.
Candidates are Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua F. Tenorio, and Michael F. Q. San Nicolas – Guam’s delegate to Congress and former journalist Sabrina S. Matanane. The primary will also decide other candidates in the general election; 21 Democratic candidates are on the primary ballot and 16 Republicans. Democratic candidates for Guam’s delegate to Congress are former speaker and senator Judith T. Won Pat and Sen. Telena C. Nelson.
Republic candidates listed for the gubernatorial team are former governor Felix P. Camacho and Sen. V. Anthony B. Ada, as well as Sen. James C. Moylan for Congressional delegate. Candidates for attorney general are Democratic incumbent Leevin T. Camacho and Republican Douglas B.K. Moylan, former attorney general.
Guam’s voters must select one party or the other in the primary election, with no crossover voting.
The general election is on Nov. 8.
Aug. 31 – The Guam Chamber of Commerce will host a membership luncheon and forum from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the two candidates for attorney general at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa.
Nov. 14 to Nov. 16: The Society of American Military Engineer’s Guam Post will host a Guam Industry Forum from Nov. 14 to Nov. 16 at the Dusit Thani Guam Resort. Interested readers can find the agenda at www.guamindustryforum.com. Details of speakers are expected as the event nears.
The third day of the event will include a windshield tour of “key project sites” in Guam, as well as the annual Charlie Corn Golf Tournament. mbj