By Eric Rosario
The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed, by a vote of 359-53, the new Coronavirus federal rescue package.
"This overwhelming vote is a clear signal that enactment is imminent," Congressman Michael San Nicolas said. "Unemployment extended to March, stimulus at $600, a second round of PPP, $75 million in rental assistance, and more is likely to make its way to Guam and our people with a Christmas kickoff."
In an hour-long news conference with island media, Mr. San Nicolas detailed several of the key components of the aid package, which is expected to sail to passage and Presidential approval this week:
One time stimulus: $600/tax filer or $1,200/joint filers + $600/qualified child & adult dependent
PUA & FPUC: The weekly $345 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments will continue through March 14, 2021. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program will be reinstated at $300 per week on top of PUA, through March 14, 2021. The FPUC will be effective upon the President's signature.
Rental & utilities assistance: Guam received $75 million to pay up to 12 months of rent and utilities (including back rent and utilities debt) to qualified renters.
Eviction moratorium: Extended to January 1, 2021.
SNAP increase: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will increase by 15 percent per month, and eligibility has been extended to college students who qualify for work study programs.
Slight local delay in stimulus payments expected
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin this week told reporters the one-time stimulus payments should reach Americans's bank accounts by next week. Because of the mechanics of the program and how it applies to Guam, there likely will be a delay in getting payments to Guam filers.
Department of Revenue and Taxation director Dafne Shimizu, whose agency will administer the stimulus payments, said "As with EIP and previous stimulus payments, there has to be discussion with the IRS and Treasury. We have reached out to the IRS to meet regarding this."
Mr. San Nicolas applauded Ms. Shimizu for being proactive, saying "The Director of Revenue and Taxation has already reached out to the IRS; that was very smart." He said the delay shouldn't take too long, however, as the only difference between the first stimulus program and this has to do with filers who had issues with their social security numbers.
"I don't think it will create a delay for those who've already received the first stimulus payment," he said. "They should reconcile approval of their existing list. Hopefully DRT can work that quickly with IRS."
Guam's inclusion in the federal relief programs was in large part thanks to the Hispanic Caucus, with whom the delegates from the territories worked to ensure the extension of such programs as unemployment assistance.
Rental & utilities assistance
Guam's share under the rental and utilities assistance program, however, is unique to our island and was championed by the House Financial Services Committee. Mr. San Nicolas sits as the vice chairman of that committee.
Had Congress applied the nationwide formula for rental and utilities assistance to Guam, the island's government would only stand to receive $19.5 million. Mr. San Nicolas's committee was able to secure $75 million instead.
Mr. San Nicolas is concerned that Guam's government is not ready to roll out the program as soon as the money is loaded into local accounts. Guam received about $750,000 in rental assistance money over the summer and still has not implemented the program.
"I'm concerned about how delayed the rental assistance program is," Mr. San Nicolas said.
"While we have thanked many in Congress for helping us ensure our people are included, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the Lord for the blessings on our people, and a Merry blessed Christmas," Congressman San Nicolas concludes.