Guam provisions retained in negotiated $1.7 trillion House infrastructure bill

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Guam Delegate to Congress Michael San Nicolas (file photo)

 

Guam-centric provisions have been retained in the $1.7 trillion House infrastructure bill, which has been the subject of many revisions and squabbles in the House.

Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas, in a news conference Friday, reported that most of the millions of dollars that have been allotted to Guam under the House infrastructure bill, also called ‘the Build Back Better Plan,” have been retained.

“Real-time update, as of this evening, voting on the committee on rules version has been suspended until next week. But we are comfortable calling this press conference to be able to discuss the items contained in the change. And we’re pretty certain that the Guam items that are in the package at this time are going to be retained,” San Nicolas said.

Among the list of Guam provisions that were retained was the funding for infrastructure particularly for a new hospital on Guam.

“We’re very pleased to announce that the funding for that which originated in the Natural Resources Committee has been retained. And so if we pass this bill, it’s very likely that Guam will have approximately $345 million in infrastructure funding made available through the Department of Interior,” the Guam Congressman said.

With this federal funding for a new hospital for Guam, San Nicolas said Adelup can make use of the money it allocated for the new hospital for use in more pressing concerns and more immediate funding problems that need to be addressed now.

In addition to the infrastructure funding, there’s also $70 million in community development block grants, which is a 10 times increase over what was allotted for territories in the past year which was just $7 million.

San Nicolas said these funds can be used for a wide range of activities such as housing rehabilitation, code enforcement, acquisition of real property for public use, or demolition of properties for public use, infrastructure and public facility improvements, economic development, and social services. The program principally benefits low and moderate-income persons in designated census tracts.

“To help us with our housing circumstances on Guam, we have $9.6 million out of a $10 billion funding pool that’s going to be going to public housing capital fund allocation. We’re going to be able to dramatically increase our housing inventory with those funds. Those funds can be used to build inventory, provide downpayment assistance for low-income families, and provide rental assistance for those on the outside of the section eight program.

In addition, Guam will be able to apply from a $3.5 billion funding pool that can be used for Section 811 and Section 202. “This funding basically will allow for senior citizen housing and for housing for people with disabilities. So we have a significant amount of funding for housing and we have a significant amount of funding for community development block grants that are very, very flexible for various infrastructure and community development for the territory,” the Guam congressman said.

There is also additional school infrastructure funding for Guam included in the package.

“We’re looking at an estimated $150 million in school infrastructure funding. We can either use that, of course, to fund future school development, or finance outstanding projects. Number one on the list, of course, is Simon Sanchez High School. We can also use that funding to address the overall capital improvement project needs throughout the school system, which was approximately, I believe, $15 million as identified by the Army Corps of Engineers,” San Nicolas said.

And on top of all of that, Guam will also get Medicaid matching funding as well as an extension of the child tax credit for another year. “So all of our families will be able to avail of that. We’re going to see an increase in support for childcare for families. So if you’re a household that makes less than $300,000 a year, which is most of our households on Guam, and you have four children, you will benefit,” San Nicolas said.

Moreover, there are also tuition subsidies for students from territories that will allow students who want to attend university to receive federal subsidies.

And last, but definitely not least, San Nicolas said there’s language that provides for secured supplemental security income for the territories. That’s going to basically make SSI available for Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands.

“This is something that we’ve been working on since when we first took office, and we’re just so happy to see that the language was able to make its way into this negotiated package,” the Guam congressman said.

In closing, San Nicolas thanked his family for sacrificing and bearing with the hard work it took to work for Guam’s interests in Congress as well as his fellow Democrats and colleagues in the House for supporting Guam’s agenda.

“We are also very fortunate for the leadership of Juan Carlos Benitez as Guam Republican Party Chair who has pledged to support the Guam provisions and committed to penning a letter to Congressional Republicans urging retention of Guam language in the bill,” San Nicolas said.

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