After accomplishing historic feats and securing billions in federal aid that kept tens of thousands of families from going homeless and hungry during the pandemic, Congressman Michael San Nicolas is tackling yet another priority: federal funding to build a new Guam Memorial Hospital.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has committed more than half of nearly-$600 million in direct aid federal funding as a down payment for a hospital local policy experts have estimated will cost more than $700 million. Mr. San Nicolas secured that funding for her, and has disagreed with her rush to tie up such a portion of the money – meant primarily to help Guamanians cope with the financial impacts of the pandemic – into an infrastructure project years away that can be financed in smarter ways.
He has previously suggested Ms. Leon Guerrero use that money to create economic bridges for people who have been receiving unemployment assistance, which will end this week. Other uses, he has suggested, were to provide an essential pay stipend for private sector workers whose jobs entail close contact with customers, and a fully-funded stimulus program, among several other suggestions he has made.
On Wednesday morning, residents are anticipated to line up in droves in a rush to submit applications for the local All RISE program, which the governor is funding using the pot of money Mr. San Nicolas secured for her. Ms. Leon Guerrero, however, capped the funding at $30 million and created a first in, first out payment policy. This means that people will be paid until the money runs out, which is expected to create an early morning rush Wednesday.
Mr. San Nicolas is trying to find new ways through Congress to fund the hospital, in order to free up the direct aid funding at the governor’s disposal for programs to help Guamanians more directly.
As the FY 2022 Budget Reconciliation Package begins deliberation, one key component for Guam is back in play – approximately $345 million in federal funds for a new hospital.
“In last years’ budget reconciliation the congress was focused on emergency COVID-19 relief, which became the American Rescue Plan, and we were unable to secure federal funds for a new hospital facility in that package,” said Congressman San Nicolas. “With this next round focusing on infrastructure we have greater confidence that this $345mm sum will carry through, and are concentrating the work so that our people can get the healthcare system they deserve while having all of their relief money available for them as intended,” Congressman San Nicolas added.
Specifically, the Natural Resources Committee will be passing its FY 2022 Budget Reconciliation components this week, and is addressing territorial hospital funding of $993mm with Guam anticipating as much as $345mm. “We are working to secure these funds in the Natural Resources Committee allocation and will apprise the people at the end of the week when we complete markup of the measure on September 2nd,” Congressman San Nicolas concludes.