Oversight chair proposes another option to dedicate more funding for public health

Speaker Therese Terlaje (PNC file photo)

Bill 398-35 (COR) was introduced by Senator Therese Terlaje, the oversight chair on health, as she continues to fight for more funding for the operations of the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

The proposed measure appropriates all fiscal year 2021 withholding and corporate income tax revenues collected in excess of the revenue level budgeted per quarter, as reflected on the monthly Consolidated Expenditures and Revenue Report, to the Department of Public Health and Social Services for the expansion of its environmental health inspections, its other regulatory purposes, and other DPHSS operations, not to exceed $5.8 million for the fiscal year.

The policy was initially proposed as an amendment during a Committee on Appropriations meeting as a way to get additional resources for Public Health without having to increase already optimistic revenue projections but failed to garner enough votes in committee.

Terlaje stated, “This bill is a compromise and instead of raising revenue projections beyond what the body is comfortable with, we would dedicate any actual revenues collected every quarter that is above what is in the budget to Public Health to shore up any shortfalls.”

The Department’s budget amount in Sub Bill 282-35 covers all existing payroll with Senator Terlaje successfully passing a provision that carries over their expected lapses into FY 2021, and provides them flexibility tools to shift money around to address any immediate needs for health and social programs, however, the shortage for their operations could exceed $13 million, pending a final accounting on carry-forwards.

“The economic impact from COVID-19 has taken its toll and that includes the government of Guam. We must use our federal funding to direct resources to our COVID response while strategically using our local funding to continue to prop up DPHSS. We must support them to ensure our community is safe from COVID-19 and to continue with the numerous mandates we have placed upon them, including protecting our children and our manåmko’ among their many other duties. I humbly urge my colleagues to consider this option to truly prioritize public health,” stated the Senator.

(Senator Therese Terlaje News Release)