Nearly half of US bailout funds used; senators, Adelup takes the lead in spending | New
With nearly half of the $587 million in U.S. bailout funds under the governor’s discretion already spent last month, lawmakers are asking Adelup for more transparency and help for struggling families.
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s authority over the funds has been a sore point for some members of the Legislative Assembly, which typically has more control over Guam government spending.
A report on funds provided to the Legislative Assembly by the Office of Budget and Management Research shows that $257.7 million in ARP money had been spent or encumbered by the end of May. Most of the money, which is available until September 2025, was received last May. About $23 million was used in the last month alone, according to the report.
Senator Telo Taitague, who demanded the report through an amendment to the annual money bill last year, said she was unhappy with the level of scrutiny it provides.
An overall funding breakdown is included in the report, but Taitague said, “The administration has provided virtually nothing with respect to information detailing the use of these critical federal investments.”
Information about the $250 million the infrastructure and jobs law could bring to Guam was also scarce, Taitague said.
The senator introduced Bill 282 in March, which would require the BBMR and the Ministry of Administration to itemize the expenditure of funds “by purpose and project description.” Although the measure enjoys the bipartisan support of President Therese Terlaje, senses. Joanne Brown, Frank Blas Jr., Tony Ada and Sabina Perez, she has yet to receive a public hearing date from the committee overseeing general government operations and appropriations.
Taitague said she will seek to introduce the oversight provision as an amendment to this year’s budget bill, if necessary.
BBMR Director Lester Carlson said on Tuesday the money was finally subject to a federal audit and any information on how the agencies planned to use the funds was readily available.
Taitague also took issue with parts of the ARP report that she says don’t help working families, especially as utility, fuel and food costs have risen. The senator cited an expense of $1.8 million for a study of salaries for government positions and $458,000 for the Department of Chamoru Affairs and the Guam Council for the Arts and Humanities.
Blas wrote to the governor’s office on June 3 and again on Monday, asking Adelup to immediately implement additional stimulus payments for families through ARP funds or part of the $87 million in surplus revenue the government is expected to collect this year.
“Governor, once again, there are families who are one step away from financial disaster,” Blas wrote Monday.
He noted that Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Governor Ralph Torres recently provided a second round of stimulus payments – $500 per taxpayer.
Leon Guerrero responded on Tuesday, pointing to various programs already implemented by Adelup, including the $800 All-RISE program, which paid out some $36 million to residents below a certain income threshold. Some 12,487 eligible families received $300 in gas assistance more recently under the second Prugrảman Salảppè and another $80 million will be distributed to help childcare providers, she said.
“Although you note in your letter that the ARP funds have not been fully expended, I assure you that they have been fully expended,” she said.
Leon Guerrero said the excess revenue the government is expected to collect this year is under the control of the Legislative Assembly and said Blas could run an aid program using the funds.
“I invite you to explore the mechanisms under your control to help our people, as I have done,” the governor said.