Governor testifies at Congressional meeting; asks feds for more discretion over CARES Act funding

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In an interview on K57, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero detailed her experience testifying in the Congressional Financial Services Committee early Friday morning Guam time.

The Governor said the biggest topic of conversation among governors testifying is how to reopen economies safely; a challenge Guam is grappling with now.

“One of the biggest discussions was what can the federal government do to help small businesses,” said Leon Guerrero.

In her testimony, the Governor said: “Let me be clear, without a single bullet fired, the loss of life and economic treasure caused by COVID-19 has been profound, and it demands an exceptional response.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Guam’s tourism industry broke visitor arrival records on a nearly monthly basis. 88% of Guam’s visitors came from South Korea and Japan…

That number is now zero.”

The Governor went on to detail other economic strains facing the Island including GovGuam’s budget shortfalls:

“Now, government revenues which rose enough in fiscal year 2019 to cut our deficit in half may see a 7.2% decline in FY2021.

This means dangerous cuts to our local Public health agency operations, drastic cuts to public safety, and potentially draconian cuts to local education.”

In her interview with K57’s Patti Arroyo this morning, the Governor said discussion of unemployment needs arose as well, and how much more the President’s Lost Wages Act (the $400 top-up) can be extended beyond 3 weeks. But Leon Guerrero said this is only temporary relief and they need long-term solutions to battle the economic downturn each state and territory is facing.

With that, Leon Guerrero said she asked the federal government to allow states and territories to use CARES Act money for economic recovery and to replace lost revenue in government coffers. She says this request was supported by other governors around the (virtual) table.

The Governor said Congressman Michael San Nicolas was having technical issues so his feed wasn’t clear when he was responding to the idea however, she believes that he is in support of added flexibility for the use of CARES Act funding.

There are very strict rules attached to the $1.6 billion dollars in all that Guam received from Washington. The restrictions don’t currently allow for complete local government decision-making of how the money should be spent.

Congressman San Nicolas, who is the Vice-Chairman of the Financial Services Committee supported the Governor’s testimony Friday, saying Guam, like other areas of the nation, needs more substantial federal aid to get through the pandemic. 

In her testimony to the feds, Leon Guerrero also brought up an issue which she’s recently pursued through Congressman San Nicolas as well.

“This scenario will demand that old problems find new solutions,” said the Governor.

“This includes finally addressing 100% coverage of the $60 million dollars in annual federally mandated Earned Income Tax Credit payments that comes directly from Guam’s coffers, and an H2-B policy that recognizes Guam’s civilian construction demands as well as upholding U.S. military construction requirements.”

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Read the Governor’s full testimony here:

Testimony of the Honorable Lourdes Leon Guerrero-USHouse Financial Services Committee Sept 11, 2020 (2)
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Mai Habib
Mai Habib is a radio and television broadcaster and journalist originally from Toronto, Canada. She worked at CTV News and CFRA in Canada for over 5-years, where she was a reporter, anchor and show host. After a brief stop in Canadian politics and the non-profit world, she's happy to be back at the news desk on Guam. Mai is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program and completed her Master's in International Affairs and Public Policy at Carleton University. She is excited to be reporting on Guam's current affairs, legislature and other topical issues.