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Senators: Pay front liners double pay

By Nancy I. Maanao

(Tumon, Guam) Two options for paying double pay earned by front liners from the start of the public health emergency have been proposed by senators.

Republican Sen. Jim Moylan tells Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero: just pay them; the law already says so. Mr. Moylan points to the Department of Administration's Personnel Rules and Regulations, promulgated on October 1, 1996, which obliges the governor to pay every GovGuam employee who was activated to work during this emergency a rate of double their hourly wage. He even offered a plan for how the governor can pay it.

"The Governor's spending plan associated with the CARES Act, earmarked $22 million to pay for this COVID-19 differential program," Mr. Moylan said. "The Department of Administration has stated that it would cost the government approximately $3 million a pay period for the double pay benefit. Technically the administration can pay nearly 7 pay periods, or nearly 3 months of double pay from the federal monies if they wanted to. If the emergency was extended till July, an additional $6 million could also be attained from the CARES Act. The monies are not only available, but may qualify for a FEMA reimbursement if actively pursued."

Mr. Moylan is not alone in his assessment of fiscal priorities and payroll debt. Across party lines is Democrat Congressman Michael San Nicolas, who sees the obligation as one that must be paid, and for which CARES Act funding should be used:

"$117 million of federal monies minus $20 million in local program payouts and $20 million in GEDA grants leaves $77 million that can be paid to front line workers... and that money SHOULD get to frontline workers. Because federal money is provided to support COVID-19 efforts - to include compensating frontline workers as they should be for the risks and sacrifices they are making to safeguard our community during these COVID-19 times. Again, the money is there. It needs to go where it should." - Congressman San Nicolas

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that essentially will order the payment of double pay to front liners, but only for the period March 20 through May 10, 2020, and only for two-and-a-half weeks's worth of work. Speaker Tina Muna Barnes and Sens. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje, Clynt Ridgell, Mary Torres, and Wil Castro, introduced Bill No. 359-35 today. The bill will offer to these front liners the option of accruing an hour of leave per hour worked during the emergency through May 10, or the ability to cash out 120 of those hours.

Ms. Muna Barnes and Ms. Leon Guerrero have said they agree on this measure, and that the Guam Federation of Teachers also has agreed to the compromise. The union agreed to the six week timeline, according to the Office of Sen. Pedo Terlaje. It was a way of limiting the fiscal impact of double pay.

According to Mr. Terlaje's office, this means the accrual of double pay will cease after May 10, and the union has agreed not to sue the government of Guam on the violation of payroll contractual obligations under DOA PRR Rule 8.406.

The Moylan and San Nicolas proposals would guarantee the payment of double pay to front liners throughout the rest of the public health emergency, while the Muna Barnes-Leon Guerrero proposal would limit it.

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