By Nancy I. Maanao
(Tumon, Guam) The future of legislation by Sen. Therese Terlaje - in collaboration with Congressman Michael San Nicolas - setting deadlines and providing means for the administration to set up and release federal cash assistance and unemployment checks to residents was uncertain until today.
In a twist of irony after telling senators not to go into session last week, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero now is asking them to give her the authority to establish road checkpoints and place other measures in place to enforce her Coronavirus emergency orders.
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes is drafting the required legislation as of the writing of this story, according to her staff. An inevitable call to session in the next few days for the legislation Ms. Leon Guerrero wants now improves the likelihood that Ms. Terlaje's bill will be debated and, hopefully, passed into law.
Eight senators will be required to get the bill onto the agenda and passed. Ten senators will be required to vote for the measure in the event of a gubernatorial veto.
Getting cash into your hands faster:
Mr. San Nicolas, for the past week and a half, has been trying to get the Guam Legislature into session to pass legislation that now has been introduced by Ms. Terlaje. He held a conference call with senators last week on legislation that would hasten federal cash assistance to Guam residents. On Monday the congressman will host another conference call with senators on ways they can get money into residents's hands sooner.
"This is due to the desperate circumstances of our people and the need for us to come together collaboratively as leaders to expedite relief," Mr. San Nicolas said.
In the conference call with senators Monday at 11 a.m. (ChST), Mr. San Nicolas is expected to present a plan on how to get money into the hands of the people within one week. Tune in to Kandit News on Facebook Live for live coverage of the conference call.
According to a news release by Ms. Terlaje:
Congress and the President have passed unprecedented relief packages for individuals and businesses who have been impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic, and authorized large sums to assist the government of Guam in its fight to save lives during this pandemic despite devastating economic effects. This bill will unite efforts by Guam’s Congressman, Legislature, Governor, and Judiciary so that aid is distributed without delay while ensuring transparency and accountability .
Bill 333-35 proposes the following:
Authorizes the Governor to hire temporary employees to implement and expedite the federal and local programs, including the processing and issuance of tax refunds.
Establishes a timeframe for the Government of Guam to finalize any necessary MOUs or MOAs with federal partners
Directs the Department of Rev and Tax to establish procedures to implement the federal cash assistance program subject and restrict garnishment to child support
Directs the Guam Department of Labor to create rules to implement the unemployment assistance program authorized in the CARES act
Protects legislative authority to appropriate funds as needed
Requires a monthly accounting for the expenditure of COVID-19 funds
Mandates a semi-annual audit from the Office of Public Accountability
“We have asked the people of Guam to self-quarantine, stay home and help stop the spread of COVID-19. The government must do its part to provide immediate assistance to our residents with continued access to food, medicine and healthcare. We also need to provide protections for those who cannot generate income to pay their bills. While the local implementation of the CARES Act is somewhat dictated by federal timelines, the Legislature must push for accountability and more rapid response from our government agencies,” said Senator Therese Terlaje.