Governor says war claims could be paid this month

WAR CLAIMS: Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on June 6, 2019, announced her administration is redirecting money from Medicaid to pay war reparations to Guam survivors of World War II. Post file photo

About two weeks after announcing a plan to use local funds to pay World War II survivors' war claims, the legislative speaker sent a letter to Del. Michael San Nicolas saying, "We stand behind your efforts in finding a resolution."

"We are also committed to finding a solution at the local level and will be introducing a measure that will allow the governor to allocate Section 30 funds into a new special fund for the purpose of compensating out war survivors," Speaker Tina Muña Barnes wrote to the delegate Monday.

Barnes anticipates introducing the legislation soon. Public hearings will be set up soon afterward in order for a bill to be enacted into law by the self-imposed deadline of July 21, which is the 75th anniversary of Guam's liberation from Japanese occupation.

San Nicolas has said the Leon Guerrero administration hadn't spoken to him about the plan to use local funds to pay reparations before its June 6 announcement. He has shared his doubts that local government officials would get the confidential list of names of Guam residents who have been awarded war reparations through the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission process under the U.S. Justice Department.

"Waiting for a list of names," he has said, "underscores that they have not vetted their proposal at all."

The delegate also has voiced concerns that local efforts could cause a delay for the remaining war reparations claimants.

The Guam Daily Post asked if Barnes had spoken to San Nicolas to determine the details by which Guam lawmakers would receive the names and amounts for adjudicated war claims. Her office responded: "We did send him a letter and I did in good faith reach out to his district director."

The speaker's press release on Monday reiterated the Guam Legislature's Democratic majority resolution to support San Nicolas' bill, H.R. 1365.

Additionally, Barnes wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Rep. Raul Grivalja, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources; and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

In her letters, dated June 17, Barnes asks House leaders for their support in the passage of H.R. 1365, which San Nicolas introduced to correct the technical language of the original war claims provision introduced by then-Del. Madeleine Bordallo. The former delegate now serves as Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's liaison in Washington, D.C.

Three-pronged approach

Barnes' office said she's proposing a three-pronged effort:

• Create a local claims fund. As Adelup continues to work with the federal government to get a list of the claimants, GovGuam also will explore the possibility of claimants providing a letter that states the amount of the claims, and then signing a promissory note to return the money to GovGuam if they do receive a payment from the federal government.

• Give the governor transfer authority to transfer excess funds for the claims.

• Authorize a local agency to cut the actual check. This would be a responsibility assigned to either the Department of Administration or the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

Shouldn't interfere with congressional effort

The governor and the speaker announced their plan to use savings on Medicare costs, about $5.6 million, to pay survivors whose war claims have been adjudicated, and are estimated at between $6 million to $7 million.

They said it shouldn't interfere with San Nicolas' effort to address the technical fix required for the U.S. Treasury to take Guam's Section 30 funds and pay it to Guam's war survivors and descendants.

But neither Barnes nor the Leon Guerrero administration has said how local funds will be reimbursed for paying the war claims, though they did say no one will be paid twice.

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