Bill authorizing $2M to fund typhoon recovery efforts passes G - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Bill authorizing $2M to fund typhoon recovery efforts passes Guam Legislature

Posted: Sep 14, 2018 5:23 AM +10:00 Updated:

The recovery process is going to take years.

In a vote of 10- 1, senators passed an amended version of a measure that would cover expenses for the ongoing typhoon recovery efforts.

The governor called senators into special session late Thursday to discuss Bill 1(10-s). The measure requested authorization to use a portion of the general fund to meet storm recovery efforts and FEMA reimbursements.

“We are out of spending authority to be able to address the dire needs of the community after the passing and subsequent devastation that occurred through Typhoon Mangkhut, Lester Carlson, BBMR director, said. “Plain and simple we are here to ask for $3 million of legislative authority to be able to address many needs we have before us as a community.”

Officials from multiple government agencies called in to discuss the bill at the Guam Congress Building included BBMR, DOA, the Office of Civil Defense, DPW, and the Guam National Guard. Officials said funds from the emergency declaration just wasn’t enough.

“For the initial $250,000 that we were given, the expenses that we have incurred to date is $80,000 over time,” Charles Esteves, Office of Civil Defense Administrator, said. “That $80,000 includes salaries, wages, and the slight daily…everything we need to put a soldier on state active duty. That does not include the overtime for folks activated in the emergency operations center.”

The administration’s initial proposal recommended using FY 2018 money from within the Guam Highway Fund and the Healthy Futures Fund. Less than $3.5 million is currently in the Guam Highway Fund.

Governor Calvo has since sent a letter to President Donald Trump, highlighting his intention to request for a Major Disaster Declaration for Guam to get federal assistance.

“If we get the major disaster declaration we only have about five years from cradle to grave for these projects,” Esteves said. “We don’t want to request $1 millon now then we out next week for some unknown we need another $1 million , then a week after that we need another $1 million to bring the island back to normalcy.”

Much of the cost has been adding up for recovery since the storm left the Marianas. Esteves gave a breakdown of the anticipated expenses.

- Debris and waste management: $250,000
- Brown and metallic waste management: $100,000
- Emergency Operations Center personnel overtime and ongoing recovery activities: $750,000
- Generators (fuel): $100,000
- Miscellaneous items: $50,000
- Remaining funds will be used to match federal imbursements

However, Senator Michael San Nicolas expressed concern over the measure. “I’m at a loss…on this request for $3 million we can barely account for half of that. We don’t even have an emergency declaration yet. The way this bill is written, you take that $3 million and go out and issue contracts,” San Nicolas said. “It sounds like you guys are winging it. It really sounds like we are just trying to justify using the storm, using the emergency to justify authorizing the expenditure of highway fund money and health futures fund money for contracts that are really unjustified at this point.”

The OCD administrator defended the proposal.

“This is an emergency event. We don’t know what the expected damages are right now. We have a preliminary damage assessment, but there is so many things we haven’t even looked at yet,” Esteves said. “If you think the $3 million is just going to be spent willy nilly, the answer is no because FEMA will not reimburse us for an expense that is not reimbursable.”

Senators Dennis Rodriguez Jr. and Frank Aguon Jr. made the motion to adjust the proposal to authorize $3 million.

But, San Nicolas said the increase should instead be for an authorization of $1.5 million. “In the event that we exhaust that, we come back come back with another itemized expenditure report and then we can authorize another $1.5 million.”

Both amendments failed to gain enough support.

Other agencies broke down their anticipated expenses.

Guam National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Roderick Leon Guerrero said he has 146 soldiers and 20 airmen on state active duty working at a total cost of $27,000 per day. The local government is left having to cover the cost for the guard members to assist with recovery efforts. The general told senators it’s anticipated that his troops will be assisting over a 21 day period. That’s at a total estimated cost of more than $500 thousand.

Public works estimated their expenses to exceed $847,000 to cover the cost of recovery efforts for the remainder of September.

Several senators shared their support for the effort.

“Being flexible in an emergency situation isn’t too much to ask considering we still have people out there and I’m telling you I gave a family a ride because they have no contact with family members. They are walking between villages like ten miles. I mean there are still people out there in dire situations and if this allows the flexibility to address those or provide additional support,” Sen. Fernando Esteves said. “We really are talking about people’s lives and people who have lost everything. It’s not going to be candy, rainbows and cotton candy right now. There are people who have lost everything and so whatever we can do to get back to some normalcy so we can focus on supporting the people that lost everything then I think we need to do that.”

“It’s better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it. This is ongoing,” Sen. Tommy Morrison said. “These guys need to get back to work and there is a lot of things and a lot of help our people need out there.”

Agency heads then reminded lawmakers that the need for money is critical.

“If we don’t get the authorization then our recovery efforts come to a screeching halt,” Carlson said.

“We need to go through this mechanism so that I could get the debris disposed of,” Glenn Leon Guerrero, DPW Director, said. “I can’t do it unless you give me emergency procurement.”

The bill started taking form after several amendments made by Sen. Tom Ada passed. He proposed authorizing $1.5 million from the Healthy Futures Fund and $500,000 from the Guam Highway Fund.

Other amendments included reducing the appropriation for the special fund for next fiscal year, and requiring the funds be encumbered within 30 days. “We have an emergency, get on it right away,” Ada said.

An amendment by Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee to include farmer’s crop damage to be eligible for the emergency funds also passed.

The Vote:

Sen. Tom Ada – Yes.
Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. – Yes
Sen. Wil Castro – Yes
Sen. Jim Espaldon – Yes
Sen. Fernando Esteves – Yes
Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee – Yes
Sen. Louise Muna – Yes
Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. – Yes
Sen. Joe San Agustin – Yes
Sen. Michael San Nicolas – No
Acting Speaker Therese Terlaje – Yes 

“I want to thank those Senators who were present during tonight’s special session where Bill 1 (10-S) was discussed and voted on. This bill will appropriate funds to aid in the recovery efforts following Typhoon Mangkhut’s destructive stay on Guam,” Governor Calvo stated.

 

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