By Troy Torres
President Trump, by executive action, created a program that will supplement weekly unemployment assistance by $400 every week through December 6, or until $44 billion in funding is exhausted nationwide.
Mr. Trump is tapping FEMA's Disaster Relief Funds to provide the states and territories with funding for $300 per qualified recipient. The catch is that the governor of each state and territory must apply to participate, and agree to use $100 per recipient in local matching funds.
Congressman Michael San Nicolas is calling on Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero to apply immediately, and to use CARES Act direct aid funding the government of Guam received to pay for the local match. Mr. Trump's program allows for this to happen.
"This memoranda does apply to Guam and the Territories, however it needs to be applied for, implemented, and 25% funded by the local government," opened Congressman San Nicolas. "If this is a commitment the Governor is willing to make it is necessary for the local government to move forward as quickly as possible, as other jurisdictions will be doing the same, the funds are limited, and the implementation may take some time," Congressman San Nicolas continued. "While the Presidential Memoranda provides a mechanism to extend some unemployment relief, it taps into already strained funding sources, and could impede necessary compromises in ongoing negotiations for legislative relief that is not funded from at-risk sources," Congressman San Nicolas added. "We will continue to engage leadership on a legislative solution and will apprise the people of any substantive developments," Congressman San Nicolas concludes.
Mr. San Nicolas has previously written to the governor to use that funding to assist the unemployed. Guam received about $118 million early in the public health emergency. According to budget officials, the lion's share of that funding has not yet been used.
The situation in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is different, though. According to documents, Gov. Ralph Torres obligated and expended all of the CARES Act direct aid funding his government received to pay vendors. He may still apply for the program for his people, but will need to find a funding source for the local match.
Ms. Leon Guerrero said she is reviewing the presidential memoranda, but remains cautious in light of Mr. Trump's other policies throughout the pandemic. The following is her statement:
"At this point, it seems that the President may face strong legal action against his EOs as some believe that his steps represent an overreach of executive authority. For that reason, we can’t clearly anticipate what policies may actually be in effect and when.
"In general, the President’s payroll tax cuts seem targeted against Medicaid and social security, placing more cash in the hands of working people, which I support. We will also be working to gain further clarity on the President’s new initiative to pay the unemployed $400 a week on a cost share basis, its applicability to the territories, and the potential cost to Guam. I ask everyone to keep in mind that the President’s actions are only hours old and the impact of them may not be fully understood until agency guidances are published.
"As we learn more, we will share that information with you."