San Nicolas, senators call for changes to All-RISE; governor responds to criticism

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The Department of Revenue and Taxation main office in Barrigada is still accepting All-Rise payments. (PNC file photo)

Calls are now mounting for Gov. Lou Leon Guerero to revise her controversial All-RISE program and the protests are coming not just from the Republicans but also from her own Democratic Party.

Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas, a Democrat, said that with the possibility of the federal government taking over the funding for a new hospital, the governor should use the $300 million she allotted for the hospital for the community’s current needs, including increasing the $30 million cap for the All-RISE program.

San Nicolas also said that the $600 million-plus that Adelup received from the federal government can now be used by the governor and that the federal government has already issued guidelines for use of the money.

The congressman said there’s really no reason why there should be a cap for the All-RISE program.

“It’s not like there’s a lack of resources. You know, if the original amount was going to be $30 million and even if we double that to $60 million, that’s not even 10 percent of the $600 million-plus that Adelup received,” San Nicolas said.

He added that the All-RISE program is coming out at a time when people are really reaching a pretty desperate point. “So, absolutely, let’s not cap it,” he said.

San Nicolas also pointed out that Guam is in a more dangerous situation now with the delta virus among us.

“Putting our people into a mad rush to the line situation where it’s first-come, first-serve is not conducive to social distancing and mitigating crowds. The last thing we need is for people to get up in other people’s faces. That’s just all unnecessary. We need to make things as safe for our people as possible, and that’s just not what the cap is going to do,” the congressman said.

Democratic Senator

Senator Sabina Perez, another Democrat, wrote the governor, requesting for a revision of the All-RISE program, saying it has placed an unnecessary burden upon the community, as well as, the employees at the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

“I urge that revisions to the Executive Order include removal of the $30 million cap with a deadline potentially set at June 1, 2022. The cap of $30 million dollars has created a mad rush and sense of panic for people to get their applications submitted,” the senator wrote.

According to Perez, DRT’s guidance has also created previously unforeseen disadvantages for certain individuals because those who have either filed their returns after the date at which DRT has processed returns or filed their returns late because they don’t make enough income to warrant filing a return are inadvertently placed in a queue that isn’t on a “first received, first payout” basis.

“This is the population in most need. They are our manåmko’, people with disabilities, and those who are working two jobs to try to put food on the table,” Perez said.

Republicans

The Republicans, as expected, are leading the assault against Adelup’s All-RISE program.

Senator Tony Ada said that because of the cap on the total All-RISE payouts and the first-come, first-served provision, the mad rush to get applications in is resulting in total chaos in both the online and in-person application submissions.

“Our people are frustrated, angry, and disheartened. Please rectify this situation now. I respectfully call on you to lift the cap on the total All-RISE payments. Do this now and let the thousands of our residents know that they will receive the funds without fear that funding will be exhausted before they can apply. Hundreds are still in line to get to DRT physically and online. Please act now,” Ada said.

Senator Telo Taitague had also written a letter to the governor, asking the governor to direct more resources to improve the rollout of the All-RISE program.

“As your office may be aware, hundreds if not thousands of our families including our manåmko’ and individuals with disabilities have been waiting in line for hours in order to submit their application for the All-RISE program. Governor, I urge you to take immediate action so that our people, especially our most vulnerable citizens with medical issues are not forced to wait in long lines and be at further risk of COVID-19,” Senator Taitague wrote.

She added: “Governor, while I appreciate your decision to finally make ARP funds available to our families who are struggling to get through the public health emergency, I can’t ignore the fact that the rollout of the All-RISE program is creating additional hardship for these same families. Moreover, the policies that we develop as elected leaders should support – not overburden – the hardworking employees of DRT who continue to do their best to implement this and other economic assistance programs for our families.”

After the Legislature successfully overrode Bill 75-36 (COR) Tuesday night, Sen. James Moylan said the one message that he would like to express to the Governor is as follows: “No qualified resident who applies within a reasonable timeline, should be denied the proceeds from the Rise Act. Therefore, Governor, please lift the cap and immediately change your rules and be fair to the people of Guam.”

Governor’s response

In response to the letters of the senators, the governor said that as of the first day of the All-RISE application period, over 3,300 applications were already received in-person and 13,888 applications were received online. The governor described this as a monumental step toward the use of technology, and more importantly, mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in this heightened environment.

“My decision to implement the All-RISE program by executive order, which included key provisions passed by the Guam Legislature, was executed in conformance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. And while I have stood firm in the use of $30 million from the American Rescue Plan, my discretion on this amount takes into account the competing priorities of our entire community over the extended period for which these funds have been given,” Governor Leon Guerrero said.

Throughout this pandemic, the governor said her administration has successfully directed and implemented numerous programs that have provided direct relief to the people, especially to those who need it most.

“The implementation of All-RISE was no different. Thank you to the frontliners and employees who made this program possible. It is heartening to know that our community sees the good we are doing. We are united in our commitment to doing more good for our people,” the governor said.

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