The following is news from the Office of Sen. Frank Blas, Jr.:
Senator Frank F, Blas, Jr. wrote to both Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Speaker Therese Terlaje today to ask that the money received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 be geared more toward helping the community that has suffered immensely as a result of the pandemic as opposed to funding the wants of the government. “Our community continues to suffer from the adverse effects of the pandemic and I believe that a major portion of the money we received through the ARP should go towards rebuilding our community,” Blas stated.
Blas went on to state, “the Governor invited the Legislature to work in unison on how best to use the money, and in return the Legislature delivered a letter detailing forty-four programs and agencies that should be considered for funding. Of the forty-four, only twelve entries at a cost of $120,656,322 could be considered as being direct assistance to the community, everything else was for the government. While this would have been palatable in less desperate times, the fact of the matter is that our economy came to a near-screeching halt and we’re not out of the woods yet.”
In Blas’ letter to the Speaker, with courtesy copies sent to each Senator, he requested that the funding levels recommended for many of the agencies identified in Resolution 93-36 (COR) be reduced and held until the effects of the expiration of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) are realized later this year. “With our tourism market not expected to be anywhere near pre-pandemic levels anytime soon and the bulk of the thousands receiving PUA coming from that industry, we need to brace ourselves and have something to work with when the federal aid ends. We’re fortunate to have received the ARP funding, however let’s not blow our fortune by going on a spending spree now and not have anything to rescue our community if our situation worsens,” says Blas.
Of the $664 Million calculated in Resolution 93-36 as coming from ARP and other federal government pandemic assistance programs, Blas asked that $315 Million be reduced from the recommended allocations to the government of Guam and held in reserve until the community needs to further recover from the pandemic are realized.
In Blas’ letter to the Governor, he asked her to consider the many thousands of citizens who are still displaced from work and continue to find it difficult to make ends meet. He wrote that with the end of the distribution of PUA looming and our tourism industry not expected to be back to pre-pandemic levels soon enough, he believed it would be sensible to hold off on allocating at least half of the anticipated $664 Million until we have a clearer picture of where our economy is at the end of the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2022.
Blas says that it was the testimonies received at the public hearing for the resolution and conversations with various members of the community that validated his concern surrounding the discussions of how best to use the ARP funding. “I acknowledge that the Governor has the final say on how the money will be used. I needed to make sure though that I expressed my concern for the welfare of the community. It would be nice to get what the government wants, however it’s only right that we first address what the community needs,” Blas concludes.