Governor: Feds allow use of ARPA for RISE payments; applications to start Sept. 1

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, who has just arrived on Guam, has announced that the federal government is allowing her administration to use American Rescue Plan Act money for payments to the All RISE program.

In a memo dated Aug. 5, 2021, addressed to Department of Revenue and Taxation director Dafne Shimizu, Adelup chief of staff Jon “Junior” Calvo said that following Governor Leon Guerrero’s meeting with the U.S. Department of Treasury regarding the spending parameters for Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF), they received assurance that directed cash assistance to adversely affected members of the community will continue to be allowable in the issuance of the final rule.

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Moreover, Calvo said any use of these funds, at the Governor’s discretion, must adhere to the framework and conditions outlined in the relevant provisions of the final rule and federal law.

“Our Administration’s objective in being responsible and prudent in the investment of these funds hinged on the official guidance of our grantor. Furthermore, over the last several weeks, we recognize that the Department of Revenue and Taxation has found significant challenges in implementing the All RISE program because of its reliance on the eligibility requirements articulated in Public Law 35-136,” the Adelup Chief of Staff said.

“Therefore, please be advised that Governor Leon Guerrero will soon issue an executive order further simplifying the application process for the All RISE program. The executive order will help DRT effectively manage the program and support our Administration’s efforts to alleviate any further burden that our community suffers from the ending of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program in early September,” he added.

According to Calvo, the executive order will require that DRT begin accepting applications no later than September 1, 2021. He said the program’s operational goal is to distribute cash assistance within 14 days of a completed and approved application.

“In this regard, and as it has been with other relief programs administered by this Administration and DRT, I request that you align all necessary personnel and resources to this priority. Please do not hesitate to let me know if we can be of further assistance,” Calvo said.

Moylan response

Meanwhile, Sen. James Moylan, who has been a critic of the governor’s All RISE policy, said he is glad to hear that Governor Leon Guerrero has finally provided some information on whether her administration will indeed be paying out the proceeds from the Rise Act, along with some timelines.

“I just find it very suspect that her announcement comes on the evening prior to the 36th Guam Legislature possibly entertaining two measures which address changes to Public Law 35-136, the Rise Act. It may very well be a subliminal message to lawmakers to leave making any amendments to the program alone,” the senator said in a statement.

According to Moylan, the Governor’s announcement is essentially a repetition of what has been expressed for weeks by so many in the community — that federal guidelines have existed since July 19, 2021, and that the rules of engagement have been provided for cash assistance programs in states, territorial, and tribal governments.

“It is unfortunate that the request has dragged for weeks, and I am even more surprised that the application process is being delayed by nearly a month,” he said.

As for Bill 75-36 (COR), which Moylan authored along with Senators Tony Ada and Chris Duenas in March of this year, Moylan said he is looking forward to working with his colleagues in attempting to advance the measure during session tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 6.

“If anything, it will provide a model for the Governor to consider as she states she will be signing an Executive Order to amend her ‘All RISE Act.” The changes being proposed include an increase in the benefit payout from $800 to $1,000, a reduction in the application requirements, an extension of the application period, and most importantly, providing the Governor additional flexibility with the budget, to assure that no qualified resident who applies within a reasonable timeline, is denied the proceeds,” Moylan said.

He added: “During the Public Hearing on Bill 75-36 a week ago, a petition with over 500 signatures collected over 2 days was submitted expressing support for the increased benefit. Likewise, several testimonies and over 200 online comments with recommendations to modify the Rise Act were also submitted as part of the record. Therefore, the measure was amended to include the community’s input.”