Governor bares spending priorities for new federal money

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has disclosed her spending priorities for the new round of federal assistance.

The new COVID relief bill, which is known as the American Rescue Plan, was passed by both houses of Congress. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill as soon as it hits his desk.

Guam is expecting to get about $661 million, not including funds for education.

“We’ve been tracking this … and we’ve been very thankful for President Joe Biden, I’m pretty sure he’s going to sign it, he’s already said he’s going to sign it. And we should be getting the benefits by close to the end of this month or early next month,” Leon Guerrero said in an interview with NewsTalk k57’s Patti Arroyo.

Loading the player...

The governor said by law her first priority is to use the funds to replace lost revenue for local government services. She said that her fiscal team is working with GovGuam agencies to determine the revenue shortfalls for each one.

The governor also said that the secondary priority is to use the funds to address anything that has been negatively affected economically by COVID-19 — a mandate that is intentionally broad.

To that end, she said that the funds will be used to support households, businesses, and the tourism industry until the island is able to sustain itself economically.

She said that Guam may need this transitional support until 2022 or even 2023.

To help make the island more resilient, in the face of future crises, the governor said that she’s been working closely with the business community to try and diversify the island’s economy.

She also said that she’s confident that the infrastructure and experience established by the Guam Economic Development Authority, Guam Department of Labor, and the Department of Revenue and Taxation will allow this next round of economic aid to run smoothly.

In response to the passage of the relief bill, Republican Senator James Moylan said that he hopes for more transparency from Adelup.

He also said that he was disappointed that he didn’t hear the specifics of a spending plan from the governor in her State of the Island Address.

“I can project this percentage…to go to the Department of Education..this to go to the Department of Corrections..this to go to the Department of Public Health and Social Services..and Behavioral I can do these kinds of things. Customs needs additional money for their X-ray machine..and they need a building to inspect all this cargo coming in from the Port Authority..I can project those things already,” Moylan said.

But the governor took exception to Moylan’s criticism and said that the senator hasn’t tried to communicate with her on the matter in good faith.

“I did meet with the Speaker and some of the Democratic senators and I have assured them that once I do these priorities, I will send it down to the Speaker, and they can look at it. And if they feel that we’ve missed a priority, I am more than happy to work with them,” the governor said.