Local war claims bill sent to Adelup; funding questions remain

Former Governor's Chief of Staff Tony Babauta (PNC file photo)
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The local war claims bill that cleared the legislature on Friday was sent to Adelup today for review.

The governor has said she will sign it and she has asked her chief of staff, Tony Babauta, to secure the necessary agreement with the Department of the Treasury as soon as possible so that war survivors can finally receive the reparations they’ve been waiting more than 75 years for.

It’s not an easy path to payment. First, the department of treasury has to contact all the war survivors who have already received reparation awards from the foreign claims settlement and ask them if their names can be released to the government of Guam

GovGuam then has to contact each of those claimants and ask each survivor if they would agree to having GovGuam pay their claim instead of having to wait for Treasury to send a check out.

“That claimant would assign their claim to the government of Guam. The government of Guam would then, in turn, send out the award to that claimant,” Babauta said.

Babuata declined to speculate on just how long it would take before the first checks go out, but he said he is already in touch with Treasury and trying to arrange for it to happen as soon as possible.

“The governor has already said that she hopes to be able to do this within weeks. Is that something that people can rely on?
We’re as hopeful as possible to try and get this done as soon as we can. There are some realities we have to deal with … the holiday season the fact that the Congress is shut down. A lot of federal workers take the holiday off. But it’s not deterring us from engaging Treasury as much as we can,” Babauta said.

Guam Delegate Michael San Nicholas believes that the local war claims bill approved Friday by Guam lawmakers is flawed “because it has no statutory authorization for GovGuam to actually cut checks and no MOU with Treasury can grant that authority.”

However, Babauta is confident Bill 181 provides that authorization that’s needed.

“The MOU in and of itself doesn’t authorize GovGuam to send out checks. That authority rests with the legislation that was passed and it was very clear that funds could only be expended after an MOU was filed with the Guam legislature,” Babauta said.

When PNC asked whether he views Bill 181 as a flawed bill, Babauta answered: “No.”

Still, questions remain.

Payments are authorized for all adjudicated claims as of passage of the bill on Friday but how many adjudicated claims are there?

Where will the money come from? That still has not been answered and the success of this path still depends on passage of the Guam delegate’s own war claims bill, H.R. 1365, in order for GovGuam to get back the Section 30 funds that Treasury has been withholding for war claim payments that are now supposed to be paid with local funds.