Vice speaker says emergency session on bill to help COVID-19 unemployment would have been worth the risk
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes postponed an emergency session that was requested by Vice Speaker Telena Nelson for this afternoon to discuss Bill 313 or the Unemployment Benefits Act of 2020.
The legislation introduced by the vice speaker would create an Unemployment Benefits Fund to provide Guam's workforce and working families' financial assistance in the event of unprecedented unemployment in the wake of COVID-19 on Guam. The bill proposes that, during disasters or public emergencies, eligible claimants receive $750 to $1,500 per month.
Speaker Barnes said calling session during a state of panic and uncertainty would be a disservice to our island especially when members of the legislature are concerned for their health and safety and that of their families.
Vice Speaker Nelson said she is willing to take the risk.
"We understand that our tourism has been on the decline we are now regulating restaurants to have no more than 50 percent capacity," she said. "We see our small business being hurt by this and really this bill was to create a path through this time so that people will be able to sustain themselves financially."
Speaker Barnes postponed the emergency session until March 23. The Republican minority supports the postponement to honor the governor's 14-day self-quarantine and then assemble around a comprehensive bi-partisan COVID-19 package.