Alex Santiago, 46, reached the point where he was worried his family could end up being homeless or the family car would be repossessed since he has been making only half of what he was earning prior to the pandemic.
"It was really hard," he said, but he persevered in the midst of life's challenges. "I had to prioritize what I need first."
When the All RISE program application opened on Sept. 1, he made sure he got his application in order.
With his limited income, he said any amount would help pay the bills, including $800 of All RISE assistance.
"I'm feeling relieved," he told The Guam Daily Post, hours after the Department of Revenue and Taxation announced that some $19 million of aid, or an estimated 18,000 applications, will be processed Friday and transmitted to the Treasurer of Guam for payment.
DRT Director Dafne Shimizu on Friday afternoon said applicants should expect the first batch of payments to be released next week.
"We are excited that about 55% of applicants have elected to be paid by direct deposit," she said, referring to the first batch of applications.
DRT printed the checks and generated a direct deposit register, she said.
These will be transmitted to the Treasurer of Guam "no later than Monday morning," Shimizu said.
The checks are for error-free applications filed on Sept. 1.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, through an executive order, authorized eligible applicants who successfully apply to receive $800 if they are individual income tax filers and $1,600 if they are joint filers.
"Relieved" was also how Charlene Topasna, of Mangilao, described how she was feeling after hearing the announcement.
Her priority, she said, is to take care of her children's needs, such as clothing, and to pay off some bills.
Topasna said, by 9 a.m. Sept. 1, she and her husband had completed their application online.
"I believe I am in the first batch," she said.
Paying bills, including for higher cost of utilities
Milcah G. Cardines, who also applied online, said the All RISE payment would help pay some bills and allow the family to save some for "rainy days."
Her husband's work hours have been reduced and there's no telling when he's going to have his regular pay back.
"But we are still blessed. I have a stable job and, in God's grace, my family of four is healthy and we can still eat thrice or twice a day without public assistance," she said, adding that her family is thankful to the governor and the DRT team for making the All RISE payments happen.
Neomi Santos, who filed her application by 10 a.m. Sept. 1, said she's "extremely excited" about people getting the help.
"We're all experiencing this COVID together," she said, so no one should be left out. "The $800 or $1,600 won't solve everyone's financial hardships, but it will help everyone."
Santos said she's lucky enough that her family didn't lose a job or work hours.
"However, my kids are home all day so, of course, utilities went up, the cost of food and the purchasing of personal protective equipment, PPEs. So I'm happy for this extra money," she said.
Help with food, baby diapers
Other families said the All RISE money they expect to receive would go toward paying power and water bills, as well as food and baby diapers.
As of 6 p.m. Sept. 9, DRT had received a total of 33,209 applications with 25,334, or about 76%, filed online.
"I thank the people of Guam for their patience and thank the hardworking employees at DRT that have withstood the criticisms and pressures that come with trying to get tens of millions of dollars responsibly into the hands of our people who need it most," the governor said in a statement.
This follows the hundreds of millions of dollars processed and released by DRT in Economic Impact Payments and precedes the release of millions more in Child Tax Credit Payments, the governor said.
DRT is working to process all manual applications so that it can have a final tally of the total dollar amount associated with all applications.
The governor capped the program at $30 million, but said she would look for additional funds if needed.