House finally passes disaster bill


Here’s good news for Guam.

The House of Representatives has finally passed the long delayed Disaster Aid Act, which had been blocked by Republican congressmen three times already.

This time, the bill passed with broad bipartisan support in a vote of 354–58, with every Democrat voting for it.

The Disaster Relief Bill provides assistance to states and territories recently affected by hurricanes, wildfires, and other devastating disasters.

The Senate version of the bill allows Guam to draw down from available  Affordable Care Act (ACA) funds without having to put up a local match, but only within a limited time frame of January 1, 2019 to September 30, 2019.

Around $268 million in ACA funds was appropriated for Guam in 2011 but the funding requires a 45 percent local match. In prior years, GovGuam has struggled to come up with the local match.

Reacting to the passage of the bill, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero said she was glad that the bill  has overcome the latest hurdle and that she is optimistic that President Trump will honor his word that he will sign the bill into law.

The governor added that her administration has been seeking Congressional support for Guam’s Medicaid funding issues and they will continue to fight for equitable and fair treatment of Guam and the other U.S. Territories.

During this morning’s public hearing on Bill 78, Department of Administration Director Edward Birn, announced the good news that the House of Representatives has finally passed the Disaster Aid Act.

Bill 78, authored by Senator Therese Terlaje, seeks to appropriate general fund revenues for Medicaid local matching requirements.

In 2011, $268.3 million in ACA funds were made available to Guam with an expiration date of September 30, 2019. However, in order to avail of the additional ACA funds, Guam must first expend its capped Medicaid funding allotted within a fiscal year (FY) which is subject to a 45 percent local match.

The passage of the disaster aid bill could also benefit the CNMI which was hit by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019.

CNMI Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said the disaster aid bill is desperately needed at a time when the Marianas Medicaid program is out of money and the CNMI economy continues to sputters.

However, Birn cautioned during the public hearing that they are still checking the wording of the House version of the bill.  But if the House version mirrors the Senate version of the disaster aid bill, then Birn said this would definitely be good news for Guam.