$553M is on the line and GovGuam didn't do its homework

VACCINATION: Shawn Cruz 26, from Yona gets his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination from Army Medic Angelika Castro at the vaccination site in the UOG Calvo Field House on July 27. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

Guam is unlike many localities on the U.S. mainland – and that is a fact and an inconvenience we all have come to know too well.

The rules aren't the same for Guam from something as simple as shipping when we shop for goods online, to the more serious Supplemental Security Income program benefits. If we are unable to hold down a job because of a disability, we don't get SSI benefits simply because of where we live. We also don't get all of the items we want to purchase online because many merchants don't ship to Guam.

There are just too many nuances with living on Guam that the federal government or the bureaucrats in its system are not familiar with.

So when the federal government asks for the government of Guam's input, especially with what is allowed – and what isn't – in the spending of what remains in federal pandemic dollars for the island, we expect our local government to do its homework, speak up and get clarity on Guam-specific concerns.

But GovGuam didn't see the need to do that in the case of the $553 million in federal pandemic funding that's sitting in the GovGuam bank of choice, awaiting the federal government via the U.S. Department of the Treasury's final rules.

A lot of interest has been shown by the community in the breakdown of that $553 million. But we, as a community, have not really seen the details of that plan.

Neither has the leadership of the Guam Legislature.

A roundabout way of getting a glimpse of that plan would have been to see what the governor's office or the executive branch, in general, submitted to the U.S. Treasury as part of the phase to submit comments before Treasury releases the final spending rules. The final rules are expected about two weeks from now.

We asked for the executive branch's response to Treasury's request for input. 

We were told the administration did not submit comments or plans specific to Guam to the federal government. Similarly, when The Guam Daily Post requested comments GovGuam submitted on the interim final rules, the Post was told by the governor's office that no submissions were made. 

On July 26, Speaker Therese Terlaje also requested copies of comments, questions, a plan or a draft plan submitted by the governor's administration regarding the U.S. Treasury's interim final rules. 

Instead of submitting Guam-specific responses, Rikki Orsini, the governor's policy director, told the speaker that GovGuam participated in a coordinated response with the National Association of State Budget Officers and the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers because the administration's concerns mirrored those of state counterparts.

But did the national association really do justice to Guam-specific concerns? One way to find out is to read parts of the feedback the national association submitted on behalf of places like Guam.

Question from the U.S. Treasury: "Are there other types of services or costs that Treasury should consider as eligible uses to respond to the public health impacts of COVID-19? Describe how these respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency."

Answer from the national association: “The broad range of services discussed by the FAQ appears adequate”

Question from the U.S. Treasury:

"Are there other types of services or costs that Treasury should consider as eligible uses to respond to the negative economic impacts of COVID-19?" 

Answer from the national association: “All categories appear to be listed.”

Question from the U.S. Treasury: "What new categories of water and sewer infrastructure, if any, should Treasury consider to support state, local and tribal governments in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change? Discuss emerging technologies and processes that support the resiliency of water and sewer infrastructure. Discuss any challenges faced by states and local governments when pursuing or implementing climate-resilient infrastructure projects."

Answer from the national association: "We have no comment on this question"

Clearly, whoever was in charge in GovGuam didn't do their homework, or the people assigned to do it took an early recess.

The lack of Guam-specific input and feedback from GovGuam on matters that could help bring crucial relief to island residents leaves one beyond speechless.



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