By Johnnie Rosario
Behind on your rent payments? The landlord calling you? Threatening you, even? Don't worry, for now. They can't evict you. If they try, report them to the police and to the Office of the Attorney General of Guam. It's illegal, according to the governor's very broad powers under the Emergency Health Powers Act. Basically and in many cases that have yet to be tested in court, if the governor says so during a public health emergency, then it is law.
And since the very first executive order Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero issued that declared the first public health emergency, there has been a moratorium on evictions.
This moratorium lasts for as long as the public health emergency is extended. Month after month since March 2020, this has been the case. And, today, the governor signed yet another extension of the public health emergency: until April 1, 2021. So, if you owe rent and can't pay, your landlord can't start eviction proceedings until at least April 2 this year, unless the governor extends the public health emergency another 30 days.
The pandemic won't last forever, though, and all indications point to the public health emergency ending soon. Translation: all your back rent will be due and payable soon. When that time comes, and you haven't paid what you owe, your landlord may very well haul you into court, and a judge will kick you out of the home you're in.
The U.S. Congress foresaw this likelihood. And thanks to Congressman Michael San Nicolas, who fought particularly hard to get Guam $75 million in rent relief for you, you may not have to worry about that back rent after all.
If you qualify - and if you're a struggling Guamanian, you likely do qualify - the federal government will pay the government of Guam to pay your landlord back rent all the way to March 2020 directly.
It took a while, but the government of Guam finally got its act together to implement the federal funding Mr. San Nicolas championed for Guam's renters. Late Friday the Leon Guerrero administration announced that beginning Wednesday, March 3, you may apply for rent relief. You won't get the money. No; the feds want to make sure irresponsible adults don't mess this up. If you're approved by the GovGuam state agency designated to administer this program, then your landlord will get a big fat check for your back rent.
The program will even cover your utilities. Here's the information the Governor's Office provided about the program's implementation:
"On March 3, 2021, the Department of Administration (DOA) will begin the tenant pre-application process of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. The ERA program will provide renters impacted by COVID-19 with rent, rental arrears, utilities, and utility arrears assistance for up to 15 months. The grant will not cover rent, rent arrears, utilities, or utility arrears prior to March 13, 2020.
"Tenant pre-applications will be accepted from March 3-19, 2021. Tenant pre-application forms will be available for download on the DOA website (www.DOA.guam.gov) on March 3, 2021. Hard copies of the pre-application forms will be available for pickup at village mayors’ offices or the first floor of the ITC building."
So, if you owe rent and utilities payments, here's your chance, compliments of Congressman Michael San Nicolas and the American taxpayer, to wipe out possibly thousands of dollars in personal debt, keep from eviction, and keep the power and water on.