As senators try to amend RISE, governor says it’s an executive program; hints veto

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero speaking to NewsTalk K57 from Washington DC. (PNC photo)

The Legislature will hold public hearings on two measures pertaining to the RISE payments that seek to increase the payouts and remove the cap on funding.

But Governor Lou Leon Guerrero says the All RISE Act is a program of the executive department and that she will stick with the $30 million cap allotted for the program.

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“It’s a grant. It’s an amount that we have looked through and we’re sticking by that $30 million because I know that when Senator Regine Biscoe Lee did that, she worked, I think, with our fiscal people to give more confidence that the $30 million would be sufficient,” the governor said from Washington DC, in an interview with NewsTalk K-57’s Patti Arroyo on Monday morning.

She added: “And remember that the limit here is the $40,000 income level for individuals and the $80,000 as joint income filers, so not everybody is going to be eligible for this.”

The governor also hinted that she will veto any legislative attempt to increase the payouts or the funding cap on the RISE program.

“We are the authority and we have the administrative capability to implement our program in any way that we want and we are implementing it in a very efficient and streamlined process,” Leon Guerrero said.

According to the governor, they created their own RISE program because they realized the impediments that have resulted from the original RISE Act passed by the Legislature.

“I guess the senators at the time didn’t realize, you know, didn’t really see the consequences of what they had passed in terms of the rules and regulations. And so now they are going to try and fix that. But my thinking and my discussions and our decision with the lieutenant governor, myself and other members of our cabinet that are addressing this is the all RISE program is a program of the executive branch … we want to make sure that it’s smooth, and so the verification from the mayor is not going to be required before they apply,” Leon Guerrero said.

The governor said they have already sent out letters to the mayors, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, and Speaker Therese Terlaje on how to streamline the application process which she said is set to begin on the second or third week of August.

With regard to the suggestions from the Legislature that she utilize American Rescue Plan money to fund the RISE program, the governor reiterated that she still needs to get the final guidelines on the ARP money.

“I don’t want to do a program and then later, the federal government is going to tell me that it’s not an eligible program to do. So I want to make sure we clear that before we actually implement the program. And that’s why I’m very adamant that we stick to the fact that we need to get the final rules so we will understand exactly what it is that we need to do and we will do,” Leon Guerrero said.

She added: “I have just been talking to various other states and other states are doing the same thing. They are not spending or distributing their ARP until they see the final rules because of experience and learning from the CARES Act.”

The governor also emphasized that from the very beginning, her administration has given back to the hands of the people any federal monies that were given to Guam.

“So, you know, this RISE Act politicizing, I think, is so narrow, because they’re making it sound like it’s the only source of help to our people of Guam. We’ve had close to $2 billion that we already put back to the people of Guam,” Leon Guerrero said.