COLA Adjustment Act has support, opposition

Sen. Telo Taitague

Government of Guam retirees are one step closer to seeing annual adjustments to their Cost Of Living Allowance, primarily known as COLA, payments after testimony given during Bill 2-37’s public hearing.

The 37th Guam Legislature on April 20 heard testimony for Bill 2-37, a measure introduced by Republican Sen. Telo Taitague that aims to adjust Cost of Living Allowance payments for Government of Guam retirees.

Bill 2-37, also known as the “Supplemental COLA Adjustment Act” could provide additional financial relief to GovGuam retirees living on a fixed income through an adjustment to their annual COLA payment.

If passed, the measure would establish a Special Cost of Living Economic Service to develop an annual Guam cost of living report to make estimated recommendations every year for COLA adjustments.

At the Guam Congress Building in Hagatna, Attorney Mike Philips testified at April 20 hearing, said that the Guam Legislature should not look at these adjustments as a cost of employment, rather, an investment in Government employees and therefore retirees to live with dignity for the rest of their lives.

“We’ve had hearings recently and we hear on the radio, that, we (Government Agencies) are struggling to keep our employees, some Departments are struggling to keep employees in their Departments,” said Philips. “We have retirees that can’t afford to live here. We didn’t have that before, we just didn’t. If you retired from the Government of Guam you actually, relatively, lived better than most people. That’s definitely not the case now.”

Paula Blas, the director of the Guam Retirement Fund, was in opposition of the measure as it was written and provided some recommendations.

She questioned whether the supplemental COLA adjustments can be validly based on a person’s residence and domicile on Guam. Saying that giving retirees a maximum of 180 days off-island could make many ineligible.

“Many of our retirees, because they’re retired, do travel, maintain some sort of residence here, but are gone for long periods of time,” said Blas. “he 180-day requirement of being gone without even for, other justification or to take care of grandchildren or for whatever reason, may eliminate them from this.”