There are two new bills that aim to pay out tax refunds to residents in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Both bills would use federal reimbursements from the $11 million in war claims paid out of local funds.
Sen. Telo Taitague's bill also seeks to advance payments anticipated through federal COVID-19 relief legislation, which provides $1,200 for adults making $75,000 or less, and $500 per child. Taitague's bill requires the executive branch to set up a process similar to that used to advance war claims payments over the last few months.
Officials decided to use local money to advance checks to those whose claims had been adjudicated.
With the passage of Guam Del. Michael San Nicolas' HR 1365, which fixed a technical issue with his predecessor's bill and provided a mechanism for the actual payout, the Section 30 money that had been set aside for war claims would reimburse GovGuam coffers.
On Friday, Speaker Tina Muña Barnes wrote to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero noting her intent to hold emergency session on Tuesday, to "address a slew of proposed measures that is anticipated to aid our government and our community as we combat this pandemic."
"As you may be aware, many local businesses are doing their part by heeding to your executive order aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. As such, many businesses have no choice but to furlough their employees, leaving many hardworking families with no income," the speaker wrote to the governor.
The speaker said Vice Speaker Telena Nelson introduced a bill to make payments to those who've lost their jobs.
"While a portion of the anticipated reimbursements can be redirected to fund this program – there is still a substantial amount available for our government to address the immediate needs of our community ... by authorizing you to fund the immediate payments of tax refunds," the speaker states.
Sens. Clynton Ridgell and James Moylan are co-sponsors of the bill.
A second bill, introduced by Sen. Telo Taitague, appropriates up to $20 million in excess fiscal year 2019 revenue on top of the war claims reimbursements.
The funds would go to tax refunds as well as "advance payments of up to $1,200 per adult and up to $500 per child for families eligible to receive benefits under the latest COVID-19 federal aid package."
Advancing federal checks
Taitague's bill would require the executive branch to develop administrative procedures to process direct payments, coordinate reimbursement from the federal government and provide an option for eligible taxpayers to decline COVID-19 direct payments.
"This latest proposal recognizes that our people can't afford to wait weeks or even months for federal assistance checks to come in. These are families who, in addition to worrying about how to protect their kids from COVID-19 infection, have exhausted what little savings they had prior to the crisis in order to pay rent, buy medicine, food and make payment on personal loans," Taitague said.
"These are the same families who are contacting me, posted a comment on my social media accounts, sent me an email or called in to a local radio talk show or discussion via Facebook Live, wondering how they'll be able to get through all of this."