San Nicolas: Guam can get more than $1.5 billion from ‘Build Back Better Act’

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Congressman Michael San Nicolas (PNC file photo)

Guam stands to receive more than $1.5 billion from the federal government over the next several years if the $1.7 trillion “Build Back Better Act” passed today by the House becomes law.

Guam Congressman Michal San Nicolas, in a news conference Saturday, said that with all the Guam-related provisions in the BBB Act, GovGuam could be getting from $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion in federal assistance across the board.

“I think adding it all up we’re going to be looking at close to $1.5 to $1.75 billion in total. This is all going to Guam to improve the quality of life of our people,” San Nicolas said.

Breaking down the Guam-pertinent provisions in the “Build Better Act,” there is $345 million going to Guam for critical infrastructure.

“This is the money that we can use to build a new hospital. That language is still in the bill — that $345 million for the hospital for new critical infrastructure,” the congressman said.

There’s about $25 million going into new affordable housing programs, whether it’s going to be in the form of downpayment assistance or the building of new housing units.

There are also $31 million in community development block grants that are coming to Guam.

“That’s a 10 times increase on a year-over-year basis. We can use that to fund anything from a new police headquarters, hardening up infrastructure, fixing all of our parks, our basketball courts, getting our gyms renovated, getting new gyms built, fixing those swimming pools that are all broken all over the island … a lot of things. These funds can go to all of those different recreation needs or all of those different community development needs,” San Nicolas said.

In addition, there’s also going to be an additional $320 million in territorial highway program funding that’s going to be divided among the territories.

“Of course, us being the larger of the insular territories, we should see a substantial chunk of that coming in as well. So that’s highway money coming in from the Build Back Better Act on top of highway money coming in from the infrastructure bill. Altogether, we’re looking at about a $45 million in annual highway funding cycle for the next five years. That’s up from $17 million. And then we’re looking at chunks of highway funding that’s going to come out for particular highway projects that we want to push through,” San Nicolas said.

In the Build Back Better Act, Guam is also going to have lower childcare and family care costs. It will also expand the basic promise of free schooling in America for the first time in 100 years with universal preschool for all three and four-year-old-children.

“This is going to be funded for about six years so we can look forward to a solid six-year universal pre-K program opening up in our public school system. We’re also going to have access to about a billion dollars in Section 811 and 202 funding. Those two programs are funding for disability housing and senior citizen housing. That provision was also retained in the Build Back Better Act,” San Nicolas said.

Another important provision for Guam is Medicaid funding. Guam is getting $140 million for Medicaid as the pool for the matching funds. The bill also increases the federal government’s matching funds.

“That basically puts us into a Medicaid schedule that’s going to be pretty much aligned with the rest of the country,” San Nicolas said.

Guam also stands to get $30 million of technical assistance for climate change, mitigation, and adaptation. “We’re going to be able to use these technical grants to be able to identify what our critical infrastructure needs are going to be on the climate change issue,” San Nicolas said.

The BBB Act also provides for an extension of the child tax credit and increases of $300 per month for children under six or $250 per month for children aged six to 17. This is refundable and Guam residents can receive this as a cash payment in advance rather than having to take it as a credit.

There are other important Guam-centric provisions in the “Build Back Better Act” not the least of which is the extension of the Supplemental Security Income program to senior citizens and disabled citizens in Guam.

“SSI is still in the Build Back Better Act that passed the House,” San Nicolas assured.

The congressman is fairly optimistic that the “Build Back Better Act” passed by the House will eventually be approved by the US Senate and then signed into law by President Biden.

“We’re confident that we’re going to be able to continue to see a positive trajectory and we’re hoping that the first half of December, at the latest, will be when we finally get this enacted into law,” San Nicolas said.

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