Community comes out to debate spending priorities for ARPA funds

The Guam Legislature held a hearing Friday on Resolution No. 93 --- its proposed spending priorities for American Rescue Plan Act funds. (PNC screen capture)

The Guam Legislature held a hearing Friday on Resolution No. 93 — its proposed spending priorities for American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The resolution was to formally submit the Legislature’s preliminary list of spending priorities for American Rescue Plan Act funds.

It was introduced by Speaker Therese Terlaje and Senators Joe San Agustin and Christopher Duenas.

The governor has sole authority on how to spend the funds.

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Last month, the governor told Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo that she has continuously reached out to the Legislature to discuss the best way to spend the ARPA funds.

That included a meeting at Adelup that proved controversial when Senator Joanne Brown accused the governor of violating open government laws by holding the meeting behind closed doors.

“This is not money for the legislature to appropriate. This is at the total discretion of the governor. However, I will work very closely with the legislature, as I have done. But as you have seen, it created a controversy over open government, secret and all that. But the main purpose for that is to listen to their priorities, and to get their priorities and I am very glad their priorities align with our administration’s priorities,” the governor said.

Speaker Terlaje, however, said that the Legislature’s spending priorities are simply being compiled for the governor’s consideration.

The Speaker opened the hearing by presenting the Legislature’s five spending priorities.

$68 million dollars…for direct assistance to individuals and families.

More than $233 million dollars…to expand healthcare services.

More than $341 million dollars…for infrastructure…and technology upgrades.

$18.5 million dollars…to develop the workforce.

And more than $3.2 million dollars…to streamline and upgrade..government services.

A broad swath of the community came out to discuss the spending plan.

A number of organizations and agencies made their case to have some of the money go to them.

Private citizens ranging from business people to former senators testified as well.

Much debate centered on whether to treat the money as a windfall to be spent on needed resources right now or as money to be invested, with a more long-term approach.

Towards the end of the hearing, Speaker Terlaje thanked those who testified during the hearing and mentioned that the governor has not sent her own spending plan to the Legislature.

She finally concluded the hearing with a call to the public to continue making their voices heard.

“We have worked hard to unite and put forth a preliminary plan for the ARP funds, and we hope that this is the beginning of a dialogue and good faith efforts to incorporate our ideas and the ideas of the community and government agencies into the governor’s final plan,” Terlaje said.

She added: “I urge the community to continue to be vocal in influencing how these funds are spent. And to be persistent in holding this government accountable for these funds.”

The Legislature will continue accepting written testimony on Resolution 93 until June 18th.