Free $500 debit cards for use in local establishments pushed anew

Many restaurants and tourism-related businesses have been adversely affected by the lack of tourists visiting the island. A bill proposing a $500 debit card to be distributed to residents for use in local establishments is aimed at helping out these struggling businesses. (PNC file photo)

With the holiday season almost upon us, Republican senators are again batting for the issuance of $500 debit cards to residents for use in local establishments in order to stimulate the island’s moribund economy.

Earlier in the year, Sen. James Moylan introduced Bill No. 78-36 (COR), which is cited as the “Para I Publiku (PIP) Act of 2021”, and the measure was co-sponsored by Senators Tony Ada and Chris Duenas.

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The legislation was part of the “Let’s Get Guam Moving” economic recovery initiatives. The objective of the PIP is to infuse the economy, by providing qualified island residents with a $500 debit card. These cards would only be availed at local establishments and could not be utilized for online purchases.

As we reach the holiday season, Moylan said there are several realities that our government must accept. First, thousands of island residents are still unemployed. The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program has not been extended as of date; hence many families will experience serious financial challenges in the very near future, if they aren’t facing them already.

“This will spiral into adversely impacting the local economy, as traditional spending will be greatly reduced during what is traditionally a busy period for sales. There are also no additional federal stimulus programs within the horizon,” the senator said.

While the PIP program may not solve all the island’s economic woes, Moylan said it would provide for a much-needed infusion into local spending, which has a spiraling effect that would create new jobs, increase the tax base, and support Guam’s businesses.

“It would also keep the money on the island. Most importantly, as we enter the holiday season, it would assure that many more children would have gifts to open on Christmas morning,” the senator said.

Moylan lamented that Bill No. 78-36 (COR) has yet to have a public hearing. However, he said that may not be needed, as the administration can simply establish a similar program through an Executive Order and utilize the governor’s authority in spending the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) monies to fund this program.

“The legislation can certainly be utilized as a template, and my office is more than willing to assist your team in establishing the parameters. Time is certainly of the essence to establish such a program, as it would include obtaining the debit card machines along with other rules and regulations. This is why we hope to hear back from you soon,” Moylan stated in a letter to the governor.

He added: “Whether the program is called the PIP or renamed to whatever your administration prefers, what is more important is that economic activity is infused locally, and families truly have a happy holiday season.”