By Johnnie Rosario
(Tumon, Guam) Two months ago, Congressman Michael San Nicolas proposed a plan to pay out federal cash stimulus checks by mid-April. The plan involved the government of Guam guaranteeing to local banks that if they 'loaned' the $1,200 one-time payments to qualified residents back in April, GovGuam would pay the money, when the funds arrived.
Neither Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero nor the Guam Legislature heeded the plan. And while the government of Guam received the stimulus money weeks ago, thousands still haven't been paid yet.
One of the reasons senators did not create the program, when the congressman proposed it in early April, was a letter from the Guam Bankers Association by its president, Ed Untalan. Mr. Untalan is with First Hawaiian Bank.
On April 7, Mr. Untalan wrote to senators, stating, "“It is impossible to implement this plan in such a short period from the standpoint of logistics, practicality and regulation. I admire the congressman’s zeal to try to arrive at a solution, but there’s a lot of collaboration and time needed for a plan of this magnitude. This is a $140 million loan from banks we’re talking about.”
The Guam Bankers Association's inability to process $140 million in April has now changed into an extraordinary ability to process $1 billion in unemployment money and potentially thousands of new accounts.
The member banks are encouraging residents to open new accounts with them, through which an estimated $170 million in retroactive unemployment direct deposits will be made to nearly 20,000 qualified workers at one time at the start of the payouts.
The Guam Department of Labor has notified banks and the public about the impending start of the payouts. An online application process is supposed to open this week. One of the requirements for receiving the unemployment money is a bank account for the government to deposit the money weekly. GBA now is encouraging new accounts with its member banks.
"Now if only they had agreed to these logistics two months ago when we were advising stimulus loans," Mr. San Nicolas lamented of the time wasted and the backward logic of the GBA and the local government. "People would have had their money faster, and all the same infrastructure would have been in place."
The following banks are the members of the GBA, the organization that rejected the proposal to get stimulus money to residents faster, and now is clamoring for residents to establish new accounts with them for the flow of about $1 billion of money:
Bank of Guam
Bank of Hawaii
First Commercial Bank
First Hawaiian Bank
You do not need to open a new account at a bank in order to have the government deposit your unemployment check. You may open a new account at a credit union. Here is a list of credit unions on Guam:
Coast 360: 477-8736
Community First Federal Credit Union: 472-8210
Navy Federal Credit Union: 1-888-842-6328
Pentagon Federal Credit Union: 1-800-247-5626