New legislation could lend a much-needed helping hand to people with disabilities.

Del. Michael San Nicolas proposed legislation Jan. 3 so that a federal welfare program could include qualified Guam residents with disabilities.

At issue is Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, which aims to help people with disabilities with limited or no income by providing a maximum of $771 monthly benefit for a qualified individual and up to $1,157 for a qualified couple.

Resolution 77-35, which was introduced by Sen. Mary Torres, supports San Nicolas' House Resolution 208, or the Guam Supplemental Security Income Equality Act.

Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee, who called the measure a great first step, asked if a funding offset or a funding source for H.R. 208 had been identified.

San Nicolas replied that the "pay-as-you-go," or PAYGO, rule in Congress does not necessarily need to be applied on this issue because it was a "mistake" that Guam was not integrated into the SSI program in the first place.

Biscoe Lee was right to ask about funding. Lawmakers must make sure that if the legislation does get approved, Guam will not have to give up an existing funding stream. Let’s not forget what happened to the Section 30 funds that were set aside for war reparations.

The new initiative would greatly help local residents with disabilities and their families. Many people with disabilities are eager to support themselves while contributing to our island community. Like other residents, they want to have gainful employment and lead full lives. But they need help as they face a range of challenges, from limited job opportunities to reliable public transportation, on Guam.

The proposal has the potential to do a lot of good for not only residents with disabilities but also the entire community. By giving those with disabilities support to help themselves, we would make Guam a better home for all.

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