On June 11, 2020, the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority received word from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development of an additional allocation through the CARES Act of $2.6M in Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds on top of the initial award of $3.5M.
Congressman Michael San Nicolas recently wrote a letter to Governor Leon Guerrero recommending some of these funds be applied toward direct rent or mortgage assistance for those affected by COVID-19.
The Congressman has also sent out numerous press releases stating that “…the vulnerable homeless population has yet to see substantial outcomes with the funding long since provided.”
Within the next few days, GHURA will be awarding some of these funds to experienced non-profit organizations to assist low- to moderate-income families who have been adversely affected by COVID-19 with their rental and/or mortgage payments.
Specifically, GHURA has joined up with the Guam Housing Corporation on a Mortgage Relief Program to pay up to 3 months of mortgages for income qualified families.
The housing authority has also partnered with 2 non-profit organizations to assist low- to moderate-income renters get caught up with their rent as well as programs to assist homeless families and individuals. Lastly, GHURA will be contracting with a non-profit to provide various job training workshops to the newly unemployed due to the pandemic. GHURA is now awaiting HUD’s final approval to proceed with the grant awards.
“While GHURA appreciates all the efforts of the Congressman, we must continue to remind him that we still must follow strict federal guidelines on how these funds are to be expended. Appropriating the money is the easy part. Ensuring that we follow all federal mandates and end up with a clean audit is where the real work lies. Unfortunately, we can’t control HUD’s response timelines.
If the Congressman is as eager to spend COVID-19 federal dollars as we are, perhaps he should introduce legislation that does away with stringent federal requirements.
Once HUD approves our spending proposals, we will share the great news with the community,” said GHURA Executive Director Ray Topasna.
San Nicolas response:
In response Congressman San Nicolas issued the following statement:
“Mr. Topasna is advised to follow federal guidelines as they are consistent with the rest of the country, and doing so would ensure we are able to receive federal support going forward.
We need to end this mentality of seeking exceptions when things are difficult because it just sends the message that we are incapable. I encourage him to rise to the standards of his counterparts and demonstrate that Guam can meet federal standards just like the rest of the country.”