The reason we left Guam (Part II)
Lou Leon Guerrero said she very much understands the plight of the floundering middle class in an economy of unaffordable costs. In response to Kandit’s questions to her related to the hundreds of comments from readers expressing the reason they left Guam primarily is due to the rising cost of living, the governor pointed to hope on the horizon. As reported by Kandit in Part I of this series, Ms. Leon Guerrero acknowledged rising wages in both the public and the private sectors since she became governor and through even the pandemic.
Recognizing that the economic increase is not enough to offset skyrocketing costs of homes, power, gas, groceries, and most other commodities, she laid out a host of economic initiatives administered by her administration, almost all of them funded by the federal government.
Ms. Leon Guerrero said “Despite all these efforts, we know we aren’t where we need to be economically, but we know we are better than we were before.”
Notably, the governor said that as of her writing of her response, there were nearly 2,000 job openings on Guam, posted on the Guam Department of Labor’s website.
Here is the governor’s full response:
Our administration knows how hard our people work. And no one can deny that a dollar just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. Everywhere we look, prices are up, wages feel flat, and people are doing more and more to earn less and less. But we aren’t alone.
The current inflationary period started nationwide in April 2021 when consumer prices jumped at the fastest pace in over a decade. At the time, experts hoped inflation everywhere would be temporary while world economies bounced back from COVID-19.
But as months progressed, supply chain bottlenecks persisted, and the nation as a whole was then hammered by unanticipated shocks to the economy, including subsequent COVID-19 variants, new lockdowns in China, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This meant supply chains stayed choked, energy prices stayed high, and the cost to transport everything from groceries to medicine climbed—especially if you lived on a tiny island in the Pacific.
This is why our administration focused on policies and programs that directly impacted people’s pocketbooks here at home. We knew that by helping where we could, families could put other dollars where they had to.
These initiatives include:
90% of all businesses pay a lower local tax rate under the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio leadership
Expanded access to healthcare by working with Federal Partners to increase the Medicaid cap from $18M to $126M and to lower the level of local matching funds that are required
Expanded free childcare to working families formerly deemed ineligible by adjusting income limits so that more people qualified for this help
Continued the largest Registered Apprenticeship Program in America per capita, giving residents opportunities to pursue skilled training to qualify for, and secure, high demand jobs
Offset the rising cost of power by creating and extending electricity credits for every ratepayer
Executed two rounds of the Local Employment Assistance Program (LEAP) for small businesses
Paid individual tax refunds in weeks without borrowing—faster than any other Governor in recent memory
With self-insurance premium rates, maintained or, in most cases, decreased the cost by 18-22%
Increased wages for government employees to support recruitment and retention efforts
As a result of financial stability and surplus for the past three fiscal years, our government can provide more public services
Despite all these efforts, we know we aren’t where we need to be economically, but we know we are better than we were before. While we still have so much farther to go, signs of our continued recovery from global economic threats are clear.
Compared to 2018, the most current Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that weekly hourly earnings in the private sector are up 20%, that unemployment is down, and total labor participation is up.
Additionally, 1,997 job openings are posted on the Hire Guam website right now.
Tourism from our major markets like Japan and Korea are beginning to beat expectations and small businesses are getting ready to meet the new demands of a world economy inching its way toward resurgence.
We are optimistic that as the world recovers economically, more opportunities will come. We just need to continue our fiscal responsibility and prepare to work hard when opportunities present themselves moving forward.