I started my career as a police officer graduating as valedictorian in both the 1st Para-Police Cycle and 23rd Police Cycle of the Guam Police Department. After 13 decorated years, I joined my father in launching an insurance brokerage and business consulting firm known as Frank Blas & Associates, Inc.
In 2002, I was tapped to be Guam's first Homeland Security Advisor and established the Guam Office of Homeland Security and helped to create the United States Department of Homeland Security.
In 2006, I was elected into the 29th Guam Legislature and served as the Chairman of the Committee on Health, Human Services & Homeland Security. I subsequently served in three other Legislatures (30th, 31st, and 33rd) before leaving and assuming the role of President in the business started by my father and I years earlier.
I served as President and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Guam. I created and serve as President of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation. I am a board member with the Ayuda Foundation of Guam, and recently worked collaboratively with the Guam Daily Post and other community entities to help displaced workers in a movement called "Feed the Need."
I am a licensed insurance broker, a business consultant, a personal development trainer, and a certified life coach. I was an adjunct professor in Criminal Justice at the Guam Community College and a contributing columnist with the Guam Daily Post and wrote numerous articles for "Across the Aisle" and "Building Your Legacy."
My soulmate, life partner, and spouse is the former Tillie Carmen Reyes and we have four daughters, thirteen grand children, and two great grand children.
We live in a democracy where government serves the people – not the other way around.
There is growing dissention between government and the people they serve.
Government should not be allowed to run unchecked.
Like a home or a business, government should not spend more than it has.
Government should only operate where the community cannot provide or do.
Opportunities and potential should be fostered by government – not dissuaded or restricted.
I’m running because, like you, I want our island to be better.
I believe we need to restore respect, responsibility, dignity, sense, and pride back into our community.
We’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do – our lives, our homes, our businesses, our services, our government. However, to do this right, we need to restore the trust, confidence, and belief in our community.
Many have lost confidence, respect, and faith in all branches of our government. These attributes need to be restored if we’re to progress and once again become the pride of the Pacific.
In our CHamoru culture, we have what is called INAFA’ MAOLEK, which means “to make good.” It has also been interpreted to mean “restoring harmony.” We need to come together as a community in order for us to get through these rough times, and we need a government that works for our people and with our people for the good and future of our island.
My father passed on some great advice. Here is the first of many.
For as long as I can remember, any time a family member was leaving on a trip or to just go across the street, the words you heard as they head off were “love you.” Saying it became so natural, automatic, and expected that if it wasn’t said as you were leaving, you were guaranteed to be asked, “Are you forgetting something?”
Fast forward to right around 1997 as I was developing a drug prevention presentation and going over it with my father. While we were discussing a portion of the program on family support, my father felt that it was important to emphasize that while family love, support, and care were important, meaning it was crucial. “When you say “I love you, mean it.”
In 2006 after the final numbers for the general election were announced and I had earned a seat in the Guam Legislature, I had a conversation with my father about what I should expect and what he expected of me. He told me that with all the opportunities I will have to effectuate positive change, never do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
There are always reasons why people do things. Sometimes good, other times bad. In politics, as is the case in business, amongst friends, and with our family, there are decisions we make that either determine or contribute to determining an outcome. If a decision is based on selfish or destructive reasons and not for what is best for those who may be affected, the action may cause more harm than good.
As a Senator, I saw actions taken by a couple of my former colleagues that were clearly doing the right things for the wrong reasons. It bothered me so much that I would call them on their antics and vote against their measures, even if the legislation had the votes necessary or my vote was needed for its passage. While my stance may have costed support for my bills, I never went to bed with a guilty conscious.
When you do something for others, do it without expectation of accolades and fame. Furthermore, don’t let your actions be dictated by the number of likes or thumbs-up emojis you anticipate to receive. Finally, know that what is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right.
My siblings and I were always fascinated at the work our parents did not just in their jobs but in their civic roles as well. One aspect that we found both fascinating and enduring was their contentment that so long as there was accomplishment, it didn’t matter who got the credit for it.
Admittedly in my early years it was difficult to understand why a person wouldn’t want recognition for the work they led to achieve or that they be given credit when credit is due. One day, I decided to sit with my father and inquire about his philosophy on the matter.
My father stated that when you take on a project and make it all about you, you may lose sight of the reason why it should be done. People are inclined to work better together when there are no ulterior motives or personal agendas that have to be dealt with. He asked how I would feel if I had to work with a team where the leader believed it was all about him and ignored my contributions. He went on to state that achievements are greater and more meaningful when there is true collaboration without the nuance of grandstanding and credit seeking.
It was through our parents that we learned never to do the right thing for the wrong reasons and not to worry about who gets the credit, just get the work done.
Growing up, I sometimes had the best seat in the house to watch my father work. I watched as he ran board meetings, directed government operations, secured contracts, created opportunities, and granted wishes. One day in the weeks before he passed, I was having lunch with him and asked what drove him to do all the things he did. My dad responded by saying he always looked for opportunities to do the right thing for people, and if there was one but no one was doing anything about it, he took charge and ran with it. To this day I remember exactly what he said – “God purposefully puts opportunities in front of you because he knows that you can do it. When given the chance, don’t wait for others to start….Lead!”
When my father and I started our business many years ago, I was tasked to put together a business plan for a consulting service we were to provide. After painstakingly completing the proposal, I presented it to him and he asked when it would be implemented. When I said soon, my father replied, “Soon is not a day in the week or a month in the year and there is no value in a plan of action until you take action on the plan.”
We may plan to do things in our lives, whether it be for personal or professional purposes, but unless we do things in line with that plan, there will be nothing gained. A suggestion for the next time you produce a plan is to is include specific dates or timelines. Remember, don’t use “soon” or “tomorrow” because “soon” is not a date and tomorrow never comes.
Although I can’t fully recall how the conversation came to be, I do remember that it had something to do with a childhood incident that I claimed no responsibility for (although I did do it). Although I thought I had a believable alibi, I’m sure that Dad had all the reason and evidence to know otherwise. And other than executing corporal punishment for my untruthfulness, all he said was, “Although I didn’t see what you did, don’t ever think you can hide from God.”
It’s remembering those words that continuously reminds me that everything I think, say, and do is known by a power higher than any human can be. And in the end, it is character and morals that have more meaning and significance than wins and fame.
Besides that, you sleep better.
I’m going to blame the following partly on being physically tired and mentally drained after our successful food distribution in Yigo and Talofofo. It is discerning that I had to describe our distribution as successful, being that it was an unfortunate necessity. Before I go on, be forewarned, I’m might embarrass and anger some of you - and if I do, so be it!
We started our distribution 15 minutes earlier than anticipated because of concerns of the number of cars already lined up to receive the commodities. The first vehicle in line was driven by Elly, a middle-aged Filipino who got to the site at 2:30 that morning. Elly feared that if he didn’t get there early enough, he would not have been able to receive food as he had already been turned away in earlier distributions because supplies ran out. Elly was employed at a major hotel as a maintenance worker prior to the COVID-19 shutdown and was laid-off from the only job he had. Elly received his last paycheck on March 20th. Other than a federal stimulus check, he has had no source of income to provide for his family. His words to me before he departed with his bag of food was, “Thank you and I continue to pray that things will get better.”
I had positioned myself between the two lines of continuous flowing vehicles to manage the traffic flow, and from my vantage point, I saw Elly’s pain in almost every car that passed. There were fathers who were maintenance workers, sons who were stock boys, daughters who were waitresses, mothers who were front desk clerks, college graduates who were administrative workers, and recent high school graduates who now have to fend for themselves. It wasn’t too long before feelings of anger and disappointment consumed me. “It’s been over three months since many of these people received a paycheck. Why is it taking this long?”
I looked at the faces of the individuals who had come out to help with the distribution and began to notice that while they were doing a good thing, their expressions were being molded by words of suffering and the pleas for more help that they were hearing from recipients. I recalled that before we started, there was eagerness and excitement to put food in the hands of people who needed it. Quickly, it turned to concern for the continued welfare of the recipients and worry that we may not have enough for everyone that needed the commodities we were distributing.
This weighed on me even more.
When over $300 Million in pandemic assistance money is still sitting in a bank account that should have been disbursed weeks ago, there’s no wonder why there was a line of cars almost two miles long with community members waiting for their turn to receive a bag of much needed food. We’ve heard all the excuses for why the money hasn’t been released – the lack of an accepted system, glitches in the program, wanting to abide to the no gathering order, waiting on process approvals, uncertainty of necessary authorizations, and incomplete information on applications. For the thousands like “Elly,” all it means is that it’s been over 90 days since the government ordered them to leave their jobs and go home. And in these days as they continue to struggle to feed their hunger, pay their bills, and keep their faith, the people they’re relying on for help don’t see the urgency in the situation because THEY’RE STILL GETTING PAID.
It is hard to try to make ends meet when you have to do it without a steady source of income. It’s even harder when you don’t know when you’re going to work for a living again.
Some individuals were fortunate enough that they had some money tucked away. Whether it was in a savings account, an investment portfolio, some cash value in a life insurance policy, or a coffee can hidden under the bed, and after spending that last paycheck they received right before they were told that they were laid off or furloughed, they dipped into that remaining money they had and prayed that there would be relief soon. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, they scrounged, they shared, they asked, they begged, and they continued to pray. All the while, the leaders who told them that aid and assistance would soon be coming were STILL GETTING PAID!
This writing isn’t targeted at the rank and file government workers who were also told to go home but still got their pay. They only followed what they were ordered to do. This is for the leaders who waited to react, who failed to see the urgency in the growing situation, who seemed more focused on how much overtime they could earn, who didn’t realize the confusion and fear they were perpetuating in their ever-changing releases, who aren’t concerned about the tax burden they continue to place on businesses even though they ordered businesses to close down, and who find it more important to debate about rip tide current signs and hiking guides as opposed to disaster mitigation and economic recovery. This is for the leaders who are STILL GETTING PAID!
Please don’t let Elly go hungry another day.
WE'RE NOT IN IT TOGETHER!
When a storm devastates our island, we come together as a community to help each other recover. We clear debris together, we cook for each other, and we watch over our neighbors to ensure their safety and security. We do this because we’re in it together.
A disaster has a way of ensuring that its destruction and inconvenience is felt throughout a community. The disasters we became familiar with resulted from a storm, an earthquake, or a man-made event that had a short-term impact on our lives. Inconveniences were temporary and assistance was swift. Power outages, long gas lines, and a limited supply of ice are happenstances that are routine in disasters, but they happen frequently enough that they are more of a nuisance than a problem. After we cleaned up the mess, we washed ourselves down, put on clean clothes, and pressed forward to bring us back to normal.
However, Guam is in the midst of a different kind of disaster – one that has managed to shatter lives, flood fear, and break confidence without the help of the wind, rain, or movement of the ground. It didn’t catch us by surprise – we saw that it was coming, and we knew we would be affected, but no one could prepare for the havoc it was to cause. That is, no one except our leaders.
Information of a virus that was causing concern amongst medical experts in Asia was starting to be discussed in early January. The discussions rapidly turned to recommendations and guidance on preventive and treatment measures to combat a pneumonia-like illness that was now being diagnosed in places outside of China. While there was uncertainty yet confidence that we will not be affected or more so devastated by a “virus,” our leaders opted to advertise that we were a safe, virus free, and vibrant destination to visit. And then March 15, 2020 happened.
Gatherings were banned, government offices were closed, businesses were forced to shut down, and travel to our safe, virus free, and vibrant island was restricted. Although it’s been understood why these measures were implemented, did any of our leaders have any thought of the collateral damage that was going to result?
As businesses were ordered to close their doors, thousands of workers were told to go home and left their worksites with furlough or termination papers and their last paychecks in hand. With no jobs available and no assistance being offered, men and women with families to feed, mortgages or rents to pay, and loans due, were left to wonder what to do next and pray for a quick end to what was happening. Quick never happened!
Confusion and fear were commonplace in discussions about what was going on and what to expect. It was a challenge to separate fact from fiction when conflicting information was being reported by different credible news sources. What added to the anxiety was the silence of our legislative body.
It was frustrating to witness that while Congress was toiling over a funding package to help communities combat the health crisis and provide financial relief to businesses and furloughed or terminated individuals, it appeared that our Legislature was doing nothing to either prepare for the package or work on a similar effort, albeit not as grand as the federal program. While they thought it was prudent to be patient for the federal relief package before they did any work on the matter, the fact of the matter was that people had no money nor means to get food, to pay for prescription refills, or to tackle their mounting debts.
What would it have taken for those who touted to be the voices of the people to discuss, communicate, debate, or just articulate a genuine and urgent concern for the well-being of their constituents? While one can imagine what the worst-case scenario could have been before they acted, we had hoped that it would happen before people were made to starve or frustrations mounted to violent outbursts. But they remained silent.
Its easy today to forget that when we needed them to speak, they were silent, or when we needed them to step up, we couldn’t find them. They’re banking that their initial silence and absence when things were falling apart are being forgotten by the release of some aid and the discussion of other matters like hiking trail guides and black lives matter. It’s almost insulting that they’re out and about now asking for our support so they can continue to work for us.
COVID-19 is no super-typhoon and thank God it didn’t shake us out of bed in the middle of the night. But what we’re going through now just about negates the idea that “we’re all in this together.” If our leaders want to continue to believe in this, tell that to the 35,000 plus people who still find themselves all alone.
April 19, 2021
Senator Blas Sends Inquiries on FMS Procurement to DOA Director
And Attorney General
Hagatna, Guam - Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. sent letters today to the Department of Administration Director Edward Birn and Attorney General of Guam Leevin Camacho on the matter of the procurement of a financial management information system for the government of Guam. “There was a statement in the Office of the Public Auditor’s release of the FY2020 Financial Audits of the Guam Highway and Tourist Attraction Fund that caught my attention and I want to know more of what is happening in the procurement of the financial management system. My understanding is that the system being sought is over $30 million and I have concerns with how it is being bought,” Blas said.
According to Blas, the OPA audit reports provided details of DOA having difficulty in gathering information for the audits and lay blame on a financial system that needed to be upgraded. The reports also indicate that the procurement was being conducted under the authority provided in Executive Orders 2020-44 and 2021-07. “What I find bothersome is the attempt to correlate a long-existing problem to the response needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s like saying we knew we needed a new car five years ago but let’s use the money we got today for the fixes we need for our house to buy that car.”
Blas pointed out that while the Executive Orders deemed the procurement an emergency, they differed with how the procurement was to be performed. While Executive Order 2020-44 states:
“Pursuant to Section 5215, Chapter 5 of Title 5, GCA, I declare and certify the existence of an emergency relative to the need for financial and human resource management systems for the government of Guam. Therefore, the Chief Procurement Officer for the Department of Administration’s General Services Agency is authorized to enter into contracts and incur obligations necessary to secure services, supplies or goods, required for the implementation of systems for the management of the government of Guam’s financial and human resource management operations, which are critical to administering the several programs necessary to address and are responsive to the current public health emergency.”
Executive Order 2021-07 states:
“As stated in Executive Order No. 2020-44, pursuant to Section 5212 Chapter 5, GCA, I certify the continuing existence of an emergency relative to the need for financial and human resource management systems for the government of Guam. The remainder of item 3 of Executive Order 2020-44 is stricken.”
Blas went on to say, “Executive Order 2020-44 makes reference to the Guam law on Emergency Procurement (§5215 of 5 GCA Chapter 5), Executive Order 2021-07 says the procurement will be done pursuant to §5212 of 5 GCA Chapter 5, which is Bid Security & Performance Requirements for Contractors. The law referenced in 2021-07 was probably a typographical error, however it raised a flag with what process and authority was being used to make a purchase that will cost a lot of money.”
Blas went on to say that his letter to DOA was for information on the procurement and the one to the AG was requesting information on the legality of the process. “I understand the need to upgrade the government’s financial management system, however, to skip the normal procurement process by saying its an emergency due to the pandemic is a stretch to justify its purchase. This is something that definitely needs an oversight.”
#End of Release#
April 22, 2021
BLAS ASKS GOVERNOR TO HELP WITH EIDL CONCERN
Hagatna, Guam - Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. sent a letter to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero yesterday asking for her assistance in dealing with the eligibility requirement for the Small Business Administration’s Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance program that is concerning many Guam businesses. While the program was implemented to provide businesses with financial assistance, eligibility is dependent on where a business is located in a map generated with 2010 census data. The map supposedly shows where high and low-income communities exist on Guam, and only those businesses within the low-income community areas are eligible for the loan advance assistance.
In his letter, Blas wrote that while all businesses were eligible for the loan advance when it first rolled out in April 2020, the second iteration of the program now comes with a location requirement that deems many businesses ineligible. “I’ve spoken to shop and store owners who were waiting for the opportunity to apply again for the program, only to be disheartened that the new requirement makes them ineligible. I don’t know of any business that wasn’t adversely affected during this pandemic, and to determine that a business’ eligibility is based on data that makes no sense or has no relevance to the realities of today is simply ridiculous,” says Blas.
Blas asked the Governor to use her influence as the island’s chief executive in writing to SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman to ask for a waiver or exemption from the eligibility criteria for Guam businesses. Blas further wrote that he believes a case can be made based on Guam’s geographic location and economic challenge due to our reliance on activity in Asia. “Businesses along the streets of Florida and California don’t rely on the economic activity in Asia as much as businesses in Guam do, so to think that there is parity in the congressional thought that what’s fair in the continental United States is also fair in Guam is being ignorant to the uniqueness and challenges of our island,” Blas states.
In his letter, Blas suggested that should the request to the SBA Administrator be rejected or deemed as something that can’t be approved, that the Governor consider a local program for those affected businesses utilizing the federal funds she has received to aid in the response and recovery from the pandemic. Blas ends his letter by writing, “Whatever the response or course of action, I stand ready to assist you in helping our struggling businesses get back on their feet.”
-End of Release-
April 27, 2021
BLAS REQUESTS TARGETED EIDL ELIGIBILITY EXEMPTION FOR GUAM
TO U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
Hagatma, Guam - Senator Frank Blas, Jr. sent a letter to U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Guzman requesting a waiver or exemption of the business location eligibility requirement for SBA’s Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance program. As offered, the program is only offered to businesses that are in a low-income community as identified in a map derived from a 2010 census study. “There are some grave concerns with the map’s representation and how it applies to the realities of our island,” says Blas.
“I have written to Congressman Michael San Nicolas and Governor Lou Leon Guerrero about this matter and have taken the liberty to bring this concern to the SBA Administrator in hopes that we can get some help for our businesses that are affected by this requirement. The map being used to determine program eligibility neglects the fact that all businesses on Guam were and continue to be adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and doesn’t accurately reflect where the low and high-income communities are on Guam,” Blas said. He went on to ask, “How can you say that hotel row and Barrigada Heights are low-income communities while Batulo Road in Dededo and the jungles of Babulao in Talofofo are high-income areas?”
In his letter, Blas wrote that along with the same challenges faced by other communities, Guam has other unique factors that he hopes can be considered for a waiver or exemption from the low-income community requirement. Blas wrote, “Our employment rate (18%) is above the national average of 6% and scores of residents still rely on government and non-profit food distribution for their daily nourishment. We also had the unfortunate distinction of having one of the highest positivity rates in the nation for a little while, and all of this has contributed to the significant adverse injury being experienced by businesses here. Blas further wrote, “Guam is the furthest territory from the continental United States and our economy relies heavily on tourism and business from the Asian region, primarily Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. In fact, Guam is closer to Asia (1,800 miles) than it is to CONUS (6,098 miles) and almost all of the commodities available and sold on Guam are shipped into the island.”
Blas said that he believes a case can be made for Guam based on the unique economic challenges that businesses have had to endure through the pandemic. He went on to say that his letter to the SBA Administrator is part of a continuing effort to assist businesses to get back on their feet and to ensure parity and fairness in the application of all financial aid opportunities for every business, regardless of where they are located on island.
-End of Release-
May 14, 2021
BLAS SENDS FOLLOW-UP LETTER TO SBA ADMINISTRATOR
Invites Affected Businesses to Contact His Office for Appeal Assistance
Hagatna, Guahan –Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. sent another letter to Isabella Guzman, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, to follow-up on his request to exempt or waive the business location requirement for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance program and its supplement for businesses on Guam. “In a conversation I had with a group of adversely affected business owners, I learned that to add insult to injury to their ineligibility based on a discriminant business location requirement, the SBA recently announced a $5,000 supplement available on top of the advance grant. That’s additional assistance that many businesses would have appreciated had they only been eligible,” Blas stated.
The Targeted EIDL Advance program provides a grant of up to $10,000 to businesses adversely affected by the closures and social distancing requirements mandated during this pandemic. Although all businesses that applied for the EIDL in 2020 were eligible for the advance, the 2021 program limited the advance payout to those businesses located in low-income communities. “My problem with this requirement is how can anyone say that hotels in Tumon are eligible but businesses in Talofofo are not?,” Blas adds.
Blas further added, “I reminded the Administrator of my earlier letter and further provided that in U.S. Public Law 109-59, all of Guam was deemed a Difficult Development Area and designated all census tracts on Guam as Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUB Zones). These designations and the justifications for it add to the reasons I provided earlier that should be considered for a waiver of the business location requirement.”
In his continuing effort to help businesses that have been affected by the program’s eligibility requirement, Blas is inviting those affected businesses to contact his office so he can help them in appealing the declines that they receive from SBA. “Although businesses receive rejection notices for their advance application, the SBA provides an opportunity for an appeal of their decision and we can help in drafting their appeal letters. If we can show that there is considerable concern with the utilization of skewed and inaccurate data to determine program eligibility, we can hopefully get the exemption. If we don’t ask, and don’t ask collectively, the answer will always be ‘no’,” Blas states.
Affected business owners can contact Senator Blas’ office at 969-6456 or email at email@example.com.
#End of Release#
July 19, 2021
COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON BLAS’ BILLS TO RESTRICT NON-ESSENTIAL HIRING DURING STATE OF EMERGENCY AND PROVIDING TAX REBATES FOR MANDATED PURCHASE OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
HAGATNA, GUAM - The Committee on General Government Operations, Appropriations, and Housing held a public hearing today on two pieces of legislation authored by Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. “Bills 70-36 and 91-36 were drafted based on concerns raised in the community about the unforeseen costs associated with purchasing protective and hygienic products to meet government mandates and the non-essential government hiring and disbursement of non-incremental pay raises during a declaration of emergency,” Blas states.
Bill 70-36 creates a rebate program to recompense taxpayers up to $500 for the amounts spent throughout the pandemic for face masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, air cleaners, and other products and used for protection against the spread of the Coronavirus. “To meet the health and safety mandates imposed by the government in this pandemic, our people have been required to make purchases that weren’t anticipated and, in many cases, causing a strain with their already-deplenished finances. This plan will help to recompense individuals and families for some of the costs incurred to be in conformance with the government mandates,” Blas said. Bill 70-36 is co-sponsored by Vice-Speaker Tina Rose Muna Barnes and Minority Leader Christopher M. Duenas.
Bill 91-36 restricts the hiring of non-essential personnel and providing non-incremental pay raises within the government of Guam while the island is under a declared state of emergency. “In a disaster or during an island-wide state of emergency, all government resources should be directed to responding to and recovering from the event. This should also hold true for any hiring that’s done while the emergency exists. There’s an understanding if the is hiring for the purpose of dealing with the emergency, but if hiring occurs despite the emergency and for positions that have no direct relation to the response or recovery of an event, it doesn’t sit well with the community, most especially with those who lost their jobs because of the disaster or emergency declaration,” Blas provided. Blas went on to add, “The administration provided to the oversight committee copies of a 2012 and 2018 Guam Attorney General’s opinion on an inorganic attempt by the Legislature to restrict the Governor’s ability to hire, however, I believe that the opinions are not germane to what Bill 91-36 addresses. The Governor will still have the ability to hire during a state of emergency, it just has to only be for positions needed to respond to and recover from the emergency.”
Bill 91-36 is co-sponsored by Senator V. Anthony Ada.
#End of Release#
July 20, 2021
BLAS CONTINUES TO ASK GOVERNOR TO CONSIDER COMMUNITY’S STRUGGLES WHEN DECIDING ON HOW TO UTILIZE ARP FUNDING
HAGATNA, GUAM - Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. wrote to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero again asking her to consider that the bulk of the funding Guam received through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 be disbursed into the community. “Our island community continues to struggle and instead of using the ARP to fix systemic issues within the government, that money is better off utilized to help businesses get back on its feet, individuals regain their ability to work, and families recoup their money that they had to expend to conform to government mandates and survive,” Blas said.
Blas said that through the pandemic, businesses were forced to make significant changes to how they operate, and in many cases, changes also to their employee, vendor, and consumer relationships. “While these changes created opportunities for business development and growth, as a government we could do more towards fostering these opportunities and become more responsive and supportive. My letter to the Governor asked her to consider this,” Blas adds.
In the letter Blas wrote that he was concerned with the lack of information being shared on what the plan of action will be when the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and other Coronavirus-related aid programs expire. “There is the potential of a significant number of individuals without jobs even after all the vacancies that exist today are filled, and with our tourism market not expected to be at full swing for another couple of years, what are we going to do to keep our economy afloat?” Blas said.
Blas provided a list of measures introduced by he and other members of Legislature that he believes will help the community bounce back from the economic devastation caused by the pandemic. In the letter, Blas wrote:
“Legislation such as Bill 74-36 (COR) that increases the gross threshold for limited exemption on the business privilege tax for certain small businesses, Bill 77-36 (COR) that establishes a business start-up incubation program, Bill 63-36 (LS) that defines and encourages bona fide farmers, and Bill 70-36 (COR) that provides financial relief for the mandatory purchase of personal protective equipment. There is also Bill 76-36 (COR) that establishes the Displaced Employee Workforce Incentive program and Bill 96-36 (LS) introduced on behalf of I Kongressun Manhoben Guahån relative to exempting home kitchens licensed as a home-based business from stringent commercial regulations.”
Blas stated that prior to writing his recent letter to the Governor, he met with Congressman Michael San Nicolas to discuss Congress’ intent with the American Rescue Plan and best use with the funding. “Congressman San Nicolas and I share the same concerns with regard to how the money is purported to be used, and I appreciate that he and I had the opportunity to discuss it,” Blas said. Blas further shared that San Nicolas invited him to participate in a U.S. Treasury webinar that discussed the allowable use of the ARP funding. “It was exciting to hear that the suggestions I presented to the Governor in my letter to her fell right in line with the allowable costs for ARP. Taken that the suggestions offered included ideas introduced by both my Republican and Democrat colleagues, I think it was clear that I believe that cooperative collaboration, and not partisanship, will help us get through this pandemic and much stronger on the other side,” Blas concludes.
A pdf copy of Blas’ letter to the Governor is attached to this release. Should there be any questions, Senator Blas can be contacted at 969-6456 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
# End of Release #
July 27, 2021
BLAS ASKS AG TO CONSIDER TAKING LEGAL ACTION ON GOVGUAM HOTEL PROCUREMENT FOR COVID-19 ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE
HAGATNA, GUAM – Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. has asked the Attorney General of Guam to consider taking legal action against responsible persons in the government of Guam in light of discrepancies found in the government’s procurement of hotel services for COVID-19 isolation and quarantine in early 2020. The Senator’s request comes in the heels of a report released by the Office of the Public Auditor on the procurement. The OPA report, numbered 21-06, was entitled “Government of Guam Procurement of Hotels Used for COVID-19 Quarantine Audit.”
In his letter to Attorney General of Guam Leevin Camacho, Blas wrote that there were details on how the procurement was conducted that appeared to be sufficient to pursue legal action. He further pointed out that four specific deficiencies in the Office of the Governor’s handling of the procurement were identified by the OPA and requested that he used those as the basis to start an investigation. Those deficiencies were:
(1) The Governor’s Office lacking procurement authority to procure quarantine and isolation facilities;
(2) The Governor’s legal counsel had a conflict of interest with one of the awarded facilities;
(3) An incomplete procurement record; and
(4) The quarantine and isolation facility contracts did not confirm to the requirements set forth in the Government’s Executive Order and Procurement Law.
“The audit reviewed the procurement of about $11 Million in services contracted by the government and found deficiencies that should warrant an investigation by the AG. I agree with the findings of the OPA that how the procurement was conducted undermined the integrity of the process and led to the non-compliance with Guam Procurement Law. In other words, it appears that what was done was illegal and somebody has to answer for it,” Blas said.
In ending his letter, Blas wrote, “Guam law is explicit in the reasons and use of emergency procurement, as well as the powers and discretion the Governor may have in an emergency declaration. However, as inferred by the OPA, the power and discretion should not extend past what is set by law.”
Blas provided a copy of his letter to the OPA and all members of the 36thGuam Legislature.
-End of Release-
August 13, 2021
BLAS TO GOVERNOR: BILL 176-36 WAS INTRODUCED BECAUSE OF CONCERNS
WITH EXECUTIVE ORDER 2021-17
Hagatna, Guam - Senator Frank Blas, Jr. sent a letter to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero today expressing concerns with an Executive Order (2021-17) she released on August 6, 2021. The Executive Order is relative to mandating government of Guam employees to be vaccinated with any of the three available vaccines for COVID-19. On the heels of the Governor’s order, Blas introduced Bill 176-36 (LS), which is an act that ensures that any vaccine to be mandated must be unconditionally approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
“Soon after the Governor released her order, I began receiving calls from individuals who were angry that their right to make an informed decision was being suppressed and that they were not comfortable with vaccines that only had emergency use authorizations from the FDA,” Blas said. He went on to say, “Most have told me that they did not oppose being vaccinated, provided that the vaccine was fully vetted and unconditionally approved by the FDA.”
In his letter, Blas also detailed language in the executive order that was either confusing or ambiguous. Blas said the August 6 order spoke of the needing to achieve herd immunity although that milestone was reached the week before. Blas asked if that section was a carry-over from a previous order or if there was a higher percentage of vaccinated individuals that needed to be reached.
Blas further asked if the definition of what an exempt and non-exempt employee can be provided. “There’s obvious confusion about who these people could be and what is expected of them,” Blas said. He further questioned why the weekly testing was only directed to unvaccinated employees. “It has been reported that already-vaccinated individuals have contracted at least the Delta variant of the virus, and science reports that these individuals can spread the virus too. If so, and if the goal is to contain the spread, then wouldn’t it be logical to then test every employee?,” Blas wrote.
Lastly, Blas asked the Governor to consider her actions so as to include and not divide the community while combatting the COVID-19 virus. He wrote that her recent strong suggestion for businesses and those hosting events to require customers, patrons, and attendees show proof of vaccination seems to border on encouraging discrimination, especially in light of the fact that vaccinated individuals can still contract and spread the virus too.
Blas concluded his letter with, “please understand that it is not my intent to stop any effort to help our island recover from the devastations being caused by COVID-19. It is however my responsibility to speak up and defend our residents who feel that their voices aren’t being heard or their concerns addressed. In this matter, there are many public and private sector employees who believe they are being targeted, ostracized, and discriminated against because of their desire to make an informed decision. And in their decision to get vaccinated or not, they believe its “their body – their choice.”
# End of Release #
August 25, 2021
SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION PROTECTING INDIVIDUALS' ABILITY TO MAKE HEALTH CARE DECISION
Hagatna, Guam - Senators Frank Blas Jr., James C. Moylan, Christopher M. Duenas, and V. Anthony Ada introduced Bill 181-36 (LS), the "Right to Informed Consent Act" that would prohibit employers from mandating the COVID-19 vaccinations.
With the Governor's recent executive order circumventing an individual's freedom to make the best medical decision for themselves and forcing employers to mandate the vaccine, the bill is intended to protect an individual's right to informed consent and their infringement on medical liberty. The individuals, not the government or their employer, should have sole responsibility for their medical decisions.
"It must remain an individual's choice to decide if they receive the COVID-19 vaccine, rather than overreaching mandates from the government. This legislation is not to discourage getting the vaccine, but to put a measure in place that protects an individual's medical freedom," said Senator Chris Duenas
“The measure would provide additional support for those island residents who may either lose their jobs, or are seeking jobs, due to a mandate of the Governor. While simultaneously assuring that safety in the workplace for employees and patrons alike is prioritized,” said Senator James Moylan
“We understand the challenges brought on by this pandemic, however we live in a democracy and there must be a balance between what the government mandates and the rights of individuals. This legislation helps to strike that balance,” Senator Tony Ada added.
“For many in our community, the decision to get vaccinated is not an easy one to make. Weighing a mandate to get vaccinated to keep their job versus an existing medical condition, a religious belief, a trust issue, or the need to provide for their family is a choice that no one should have to make. We need to trust that businesses and their employees know what needs to be done to keep their workplaces safe without the government forcing their will upon them. Vaccinations may have their value, but the ability to chose and the right to make an informed decision is priceless,” Senator Blas concluded.
-END OF STATEMENT-
September 17, 2021
FOR THE THIRD TIME, BLAS IMPLORES ATTORNEY GENERAL TO PURSUE
LEGAL ACTION ON EMERGENCY HOTEL PROCUREMENT
Hagatna, Guam - Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. sent a third letter to the Attorney General of Guam requesting that he take legal action pursuant to concerns raised with regard to the emergency procurement of hotel services for quarantine facilities on and about March of 2020.
“My first request to the Attorney General was sent on July 26, and then I sent a follow-up to that request on August 11th. I don’t see nor have I been informed of any reason why action cannot or has not been initiated. Enough time has elapsed to decide on what action will be taken, and the people of Guam deserve to know what that will be,” Senator Blas said.
Blas’ request was made after the Office of the Public Auditor released a report (No.21-06) on the Government of Guam Procurement of Hotels Used for COVID-19 Quarantine. The report identified four (4) deficiencies in the procurement of the hotel services which were:
(1) The Governor’s Office lacking procurement authority to procure quarantine and isolation facilities;
(2) The Governor’s legal counsel had a conflict of interest with one of the awarded facilities;
(3) An incomplete procurement record; and
(4) The quarantine and isolation facility contracts did not confirm to the requirements set forth in the Government’s Executive Order and Procurement Law.
“I pray that the AG acts on the request and does not think that by just ignoring it, the matter will fade away. If the Public Auditor, with the confidence and expertise he has in his office, combined with his legal and legislative experience, believes that there were deficiencies in the procurement process, then I believe as well that legal action should be taken,” Blas concluded.
#End of Release#
September 23, 2021
BLAS ASKS GOVERNOR TO DELAY VACCINE MANDATE
Hagatna, Guam - Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. asked Governor Lou Leon Guerrero today to delay the vaccine mandates that she ordered through Executive Orders 2021-17 and 2021-20. The Orders directed both government and private sector employees to be fully vaccinated with one of the three available vaccines by September 24 and September 27, 2021 respectively. “My office has been receiving calls from individuals who were concerned and confused with the directives. Some have further provided that the information they received from their supervisors seemed contradictory and unsure about how the program will be administered. If the bosses aren’t sure about what can and cannot be done, how are the employees expected to comply?” Blas stated.
Through Executive Order 2021-17, all government of Guam employees are required to be fully vaccinated with either a single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or the two shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna series no later than September 24, 2021. Executive Order 2021-20 requires that employees of all restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, fitness centers, dance studios, movie theaters, food courts at shopping establishments, bowling alleys, sporting events, concerts, boat cruises, and other establishments that may be identified in applicable DPHSS guidance be vaccinated with at least the first shot of a recommended series of vaccination by 8:00am September 27, 2021.
“There is concern with the operative language contained in both Executive Orders that is ambiguous and over-reaching. It is incumbent that before you roll out a mandate as significant as this that at least the ambiguity is addressed. Furthermore, it is understood that if a person chooses to be vaccinated, that person accepts all liabilities associated with their decision. However, in the case of a person being mandated or forced to do something they don’t want or not ready to do, who then becomes responsible for any liability that arises? That concern also needs to be addressed before we can proceed,” Blas adds.
I agree that we need to do everything that we can as a community to stop the devastating effects of this virus, however, this has to be accomplished without the force, threats, and divisiveness that has become the course of action for this administration. Our community is scared, and our island is getting a bad rap from the outside looking in, and we can and must do better. Delaying the implementation of the mandates until the numerous concerns are addressed is a place where we can start,” Blas concludes.
#End of Release#
October 15, 2021
SENATOR BLAS THANKS GOVERNOR FOR EFFORT TO PROVIDE
NEEDED AID TO BUSINESSES, BUT SUGGESTS MORE CAN BE DONE
HAGATNA, GUAM - Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. sent a letter today to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero thanking her for the effort to provide needed aid to businesses that have suffered tremendously as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, however suggested that more can be done.
“As a business owner, I know and understand the hardship and struggle that many business owners and their employees have had to endure throughout this pandemic. While they bear their current challenges, as a government I believe that we need to share in that burden so that, as a community, we can get through this together,” Blas said.
Blas went on to say, “I thank the Governor for wanting to address the financial challenges that our business community is being faced with. We rely on them not just to accommodate, entertain, and service our visitors, when they come, but we also want them to continue to provide these same services to our people. Businesses are finding it hard to stay open and keep their people employed, and I know we can do much more if we bolster what is being provided through Executive Order 2021-25.”
Blas and several of his colleagues have been in communication with business owners and employees who are seeking guidance and assistance to keep their jobs and businesses going. With the expiration of most local and federal pandemic assistance programs, combined with the uncertainty of when visitors can return, the owners and employees have been left with no other alternative but to seek help from the government.
“While the intent of Executive Order 2021-25 is appreciated, I believe that there exists a viable way to increase the funding while providing the Governor with greater flexibility to manage the government’s finances. $50 million to assist the industry that historically accounts for over half of our island’s annual intake will help but may not be enough to get our businesses to the end of the tunnel. I know we can do better, and I’ve asked the Governor to work together so we can achieve this.
#End of Release#
October 19, 2021
SENATORS INTRO ALTERNATIVE MEANS TO HELP BUSINESSES
AND THEIR EMPLOYEES
HAGATNA, GUAM – A trio of Republican Senators introduced a measure to assist the Governor in the effort to provide much needed financial assistance to Guam businesses and their employees. Senators Frank Blas, Jr., Christopher Duenas, and V. Anthony Ada introduced Bill 216-36(COR) that will provide the Governor the financial flexibility within the Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget to fund the “Local Employers Assistance Program (LEAP)” rolled out in Executive Order 2021-25.
Dubbed the “Protehi I Lina’Lata Act of 2021,” Bill 216-36(COR) proposes to increase the Governor’s transfer authority in the FY2022 budget from five to ten percent. “If passed into law, the Act will give the Governor the flexibility to fund the assistance program while maintaining an ample amount within her remaining authority to transfer money where necessary. We recognized that the companion bill to the Executive Order appropriated $25 Million from within the General Fund but gave no specifics. The bill calls for $37.5 Million, however it gives the Governor the additional authority needed so she can manage the finances and still provide the funding for “LEAP,” said Blas.
Blas went on to say, “We’re excited with the prospect of what the Governor’s program will provide to our businesses and their employees as they struggle through this pandemic. Our excitement is further heightened with our proposal as it will increase the funding while giving the Governor the financial tool necessary to accomplish this. We can’t afford for these businesses and the talent and skills their employees have to fold now as we try to restart our economy. Losing them will set us back, not just as a tourist destination, but as an island that is fighting to get back on its feet.”
Blas said that he joins Senators Duenas and Ada in asking that the Legislature’s leadership recognizes the urgency and need for the bill and works expeditiously to have its public hearing and brought to session floor. Blas concluded by saying the fate of our island’s economy is contingent on what we do now to keep it afloat, and Bill 216 will be a tremendous boost.
#End of Release#
October 21, 2021
BLAS TO GOVERNOR: COMMUNITY MEMBERS SUGGEST TESTING EVERYBODY WEEKLY
OR END STATE OF EMERGENCY
Hagatna, Guam – Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr. wrote to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and, on behalf of community members, asked her to consider mandating that both vaccinated and unvaccinated be tested weekly or end the state of emergency. Blas wrote that if it is the intent of the Governor to want to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and data has shown that individuals who have been vaccinated are still susceptible to contracting and spreading the virus, then the mandatory weekly test that she ordered should extend to vaccinated persons as well. This is not a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” but is a pandemic that has affected every facet of our community, whether you’ve been jabbed or not, wrote Blas.
Blas stated that he felt compelled to share the concerns he received over the last few weeks, and it was incumbent of him to share them with the Governor. “Many people have real and legitimate concerns with the affects that the directives are having on the community. Because they feel that their worries and suggestions appear to be falling on deaf ears with Adelup, their bosses, and other community leaders, they came to me and asked that I speak for them,” Blas said.
Blas believes that there is a growing conversation about whether there is a need to continue many of the mandates the Governor has imposed through her executive powers and whether there is the need to continue the state of emergency we are in. Blas went on to say that almost everything the government is doing right now can be accomplished through her regular authority, or if needed, by Executive Order, and not necessarily under a state of emergency. “I think we need to now have a serious discussion on this matter,” Blas went to say.
In his letter, Blas also reminded the Governor of his previous suggestion that a means to stem the devastating health effects of the virus is to address the underlying conditions regularly reported as being attributable to the COVID-19 deaths. Blas stated that almost every COVID-19 death was reported as having an underlying health condition. “If we can put a little more focus here as opposed to mandates that in essence discourages healthy habits and exercise, we could probably do a better job at reducing or eliminating the severe effects of the virus,” Blas wrote.
Blas also wrote that even members of the medical profession expressed concern that some of the mandates were unnecessary and may have contributed to the increase in the positive cases in our community. Blas said that in observation of other places experiencing decreases in their positivity rates while lifting many of their restrictions, doctors question why Guam is struggling even with all the mandates in place. “I understand why the doctors are questioning this, and as such, do we need to continue to be as restrictive and controlling as we are now?” Blas questioned.
#End of Release#
November 16, 2021
BLAS ASKS ACTING GOVERNOR TENORIO TO CONSIDER EASING
OR RESCINDING COVID-19 MANDATES
HAGATNA, GUAM – Senator Frank Blas, Jr. penned a letter today to Acting Governor Joshua Tenorio asking the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration to consider easing or rescinding certain COVID-19 mandates affecting island businesses and residents. Blas stated that island residents have been restricted or ordered to follow so many directives for over 19 months and that island leaders should evaluate the necessity and effectiveness of the orders still in existence. “We have social and economic issues that are attributable to the hardships and heartaches that our community has had to endure and we’ve got to trust that our people know what to do to protect themselves and those around them,” Blas said.
For more information, please refer to Blas’ letter to Acting Governor Tenorio attached to this release.
#End of Release#
In this section, I'll detail some of the discussions and concerns shared with me while out and about in the campaign. It's through these interactions that I get the pulse and understanding of what our community believes is important and necessary to build a better Guam. I'll also share information about activities and events that I participated in on the trail.
While meeting with several people and introducing my candidacy, I took the time to ask what their concerns were and their ideas on how we can make Guam better. In this first of two parts, let me share the concerns that were presented to me. These may resonate with you too.
1. How is Guam's economy going to recover?
2. What do we do to make up for tourism?
3. Why does it appear that the government is more concerned about the business of government? My concern is how am I going to sustain my business, and how I’m going to pay for my mortgage, rent, car loan, food, and my utilities.
4. After the federal aid for business disruption and unemployment runs out, what’s going to happen next?
5. With many businesses closing, where would I be able to get what I need, and will it cost me more?
6. Why hasn’t the government implemented furloughs to help save what we have in the General Fund?
7. Will we be able to survive another crisis (natural or man-made disaster) while in our current economic condition?
8. Are we putting too much trust and confidence in a release of another federal aid package?
9. How does the Legislature go into emergency session and then take almost a week recess before addressing the emergency?
As a business owner, but more importantly, a person being depended upon to provide the shelter, food, protection, and basic necessities of a household, how we can financially survive in these uncertain times and how we can revive our economy after this is over continues to weigh heavy on my mind? Tourists aren’t coming. Business are closed. Federal aid is almost depleted and most of it will expire in December. And no plan is being discussed on how we’re going to get people back to work and our economy up and running again.
In March 2020, our world, as we knew it, turned scary and chaotic when it was confirmed that the COVID-19 virus hit our shores. To combat the spread of the illness, a lock down and stay-at-home order was implemented, and our community obligingly complied. Businesses were ordered to be closed, tourists were ferried off, and employees were told to go home and await further instructions. This was supposed to be temporary, and that life would get back on track.
As weeks passed, thousands of people who once had income to pay for their utilities, purchase their meals, and save for their future were left to wonder how they were going to survive. In quick order, they depleted their savings, cashed out their retirement plans, sold their belongings, and waited in line for hours so they can get food to feed their families.
Forward to September and the situation hadn’t gotten any better. While much needed federal assistance money was received and distributed, that money was used primarily to pay down creditors and utility bills. People were still finding it difficult to purchase food, clothing, and their toiletry needs. And although there was some respite with their financial struggle, store closures made it difficult to find items they needed to buy.
While many found convenience and a means to stretch their relief funds by shifting to on-line purchasing, it consequentially meant that money intended to revive and stimulate our island economy was not being spent here.
As the battle continues to contain, if not end, this public health crisis and there is a need to get back to some sense of normalcy, the damage to our economy has already been done.
According to UOG Economics Professor Roseanne Jones, she calculated that Guam’s economy will not begin to recover until 2022. BankPacific President Phil Flores has characterized our island’s economy as being “shattered” and that recovery will not occur until 2023. Whether or not the recovery begins in 2022 or 2023, the livelihood of thousands of residents is dependent on recovery efforts NOW!
There is frustration in the community in the lack of planning, much less an open discussion, by government leaders with our community on what needs to be done or what can be done to economically recover from this COVID-19 crisis. Because of this, businesses have been either forced to close their doors or restrict their operations. The employees were either allowed to continue to work with reduced hours or furloughed. Ultimately, many businesses servicing our island community could not afford to not operate and were left with no choice but to shut their doors for good. When this happens, an employee who was hoping one day to return to work no longer has a job he could go back to.
Our island can no longer wait for its current government leaders to meaningfully address our shattered economy, hence the creation of the Rx5: Guam's Prescription for Economic Recovery.
Rx5 is a five-pronged coordinated approach to mitigating the negative impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on our industries and businesses and to implement actions to fix and strengthen our economy.
The elements of Rx5 are Rethink, Retool, Remake, Rebuild, and Rebound. While these elements complement each other, the plan was designed to be flexible and dynamic so that the achievement of one element is not reliant on the success of another.
The first four; Rethink, Retool, Remake, and Rebuild are tangible and operational components that can have taskings and timelines. The fifth element, Rebound, is a mindset and the goal of the plan.
Rx5: Rethink – Retool – Remake – Rebuild – REBOUND!
Let's RETHINK how we do business on Guam!
This component focuses on easing or eliminating the challenges of starting and sustaining a business. It will look into government requirements, regulations, and fees. It will also look into operational and logistical restrictions and concerns due to infrastructure, distance, communications, carrier, volume, and geo-political challenges.
· Who are the people we need to tap in to work on this component? (Repetitive question for all components)
· What have we been focused on?
· What does it take to start a business here?
· What role should government have in starting and sustaining business?
· Should government have a role in business?
· What are the government requirements to start a business here?
· What kind of financial or professional services available to start a business?
· What changes can be made to start and sustain a business?
· What can be done to bring start-up costs down?
Let's RETOOL our current and displaced breadwinners to provide them diversity and opportunity!
This component will examine and identify the training, tools, and skill sets needed by our workforce to rebuild (existing business) and build (future business) our economy. This will help to maximize our existing training programs and identify and build additionally needed learning platforms.
There will no doubt be new protocols, along with possibly the need to cross-train employees brought on by new health and safety guidelines. In order to meet these demands and expectations, employees at all levels will need to be trained or familiarized with these anticipated requirements.
· How can we retool or train-up our current workers and displaced breadwinners to meet the current and future demands of the workforce?
· Are existing programs geared toward training for current or future demands?
· What are those jobs or services that need/have new requirements and can they or are they being provided?
Let's REMAKE an economy that is more resilient and prepared for any challenge!
This component will first focus on the challenges, mistakes made, lessons learned, and unresolved issues relative to the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. This exercise will provide the information needed to harden our economy to withstand future effects from disasters. Think of it as installing typhoon shutters and water storage tanks on our economic home.
· What have we learned from this crisis with regard to the impact it had on the economy?
· What could we have done to prepare for the economic impact?
· What could we have done better in the midst of the crisis?
· What could we do to mitigate the damages sustained by the economic shutdown?
· What can we do to become more resilient and prepared?
Let's REBUILD our economy with the recognition that we are all in this together, and together is the way our community survives!
A major problem that we had with our economy is that we built silos around each economic driver. These silos have made it difficult to extend assistance or diversify our services to deal with the challenges brought on by a disaster. The silos have also caused us to limit the possibilities and opportunities for new industry or ideas that don’t fit the mold of what has been established.
We need to remove the walls that divide and limit us in advancing our economy. This begins by re-establishing a collaborative communication line between all sectors of our community. With improvements in our communications, we can resolve concerns, identify shortfalls, share in expertise, combine resources, expand possibilities, create opportunities, and grow the economy.
· How can we improve the communications between all sectors of our community?
· How can we help each other in rebuilding the businesses impacted by the crisis?
· What do we need to do to bring back the businesses that were severely impacted or that were lost?
· Are there new business opportunities created by the crisis experience?
· Are there business opportunities that we can explore that weren’t a priority before?
· Are there opportunities for local, regional, and global partnerships or cooperatives?
· Can we take advantage of our geographic and strategic location for economic activity between the Americas and Asia?
Let's REBOUND from this calamity the way we've rebounded from disasters before!
The test of the will of a community and the strength of their economy is the ability to withstand a disaster, pick themselves up afterwards, and continue bruised but intact.
As we should have learned in every major disaster we’ve experienced, we are it until the cavalry can safely arrive, and that can take some time. Although it is difficult to set taskings and timelines to this component, the mindset and belief that we will rebound will drive the urgency and importance of the other components in this plan. The time it takes our economy to rebound is the only concern this component should have.
· This a more a positive and optimistic mindset.
· We have a history of rebounding from disasters.
· Let’s not wait for things to happen – Let’s make it happen!
WE MAY BE DOWN, BUT WE’RE NOT DONE!
UNASSIGNED YET SIGNIFICANT QUESTIONS
1. Who should be part of this discussion?
2. Is there a role for the judicial branch?
3. What meeting process should we use to conduct the formal discussions and studies? (Round table, forum, informational hearing)
4. What do we want our rebuilt economy to entail?
5. With more revenue anticipated in a stronger economy, where do we want the money to go?
6. Not including health, safety, and public education, what government agencies will be vital to the recovery of our economy?
7. Are there CARES Act or similar funding available to help with the studies, discussions, and implementation of the plan?
Questions & Answers
1. What is the goal of the plan?
To build a robust and diversified economy that has mitigative measures to withstand the negative effects of future disasters and continually seeks opportunities for growth and enhancement.
2. What prompted the creation of the plan?
First and foremost is because there was none.
Guam’s economy has suffered tremendously because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Internally, businesses have closed, thousands have lost their jobs, money disbursed to stimulate our economy isn’t being circulated here but spent through on-line off island purchasing, and savings & retirement accounts have all but been depleted.
Guam’s economy has been primarily dependent on three activities; tourism, federal government relations, and the military presence (inclusive of the buildup). While the military presence (and buildup) remained somewhat consistent, tourist activity was non-existent, and the federal government had its hands full.
If not for the monies received through the CARES Act, our island’s economy could have been easily characterized as “in total ruin.” We would have had no economic activity.
3. Is the plan flexible and can it be modified?
The plan as presented is not definitive, meaning the makeup and objectives are not set in stone. The first four components (rethink, retool, remake, and rebuild) are departure points for discussions that need to be had and can be expanded or divided to address additional concerns if identified. The fifth component, rebound, is the goal of the plan. Once the rebound is achieved, it is replaced by “re-assess,” and the process starts over again.
4. Has any proposed legislation been drafted for the plan or any of the components?
No, it is premature to draft any legislation at this time because that will be based on discussions to occur with each component. The plan itself does not require legislation to be implemented, however, we may consider doing so if we find it necessary. Again, we want the plan to be flexible and adaptable based on the discussions we intend to have.
5. How do you intend to fund the implementation of this plan?
There is no funding necessary to initiate the discussions of the plan. We intend to begin with informal and formal meetings to create component groups and to use the legislative round table and hearing processes to address the issues identified in each component.
This video introduces some of the plans to help us get through and past this pandemic.
Aiden Aguon asked if he could do a campaign commercial with me as part of his school homework. Here is his production. Good job Aiden!
Oh yeah, there was a blooper video made with all the mis-takes we made, but Aiden pleaded that I not share it .... yet!
A collaborative tribute to commemorate the 76th Anniversary of the Liberation of Guam and to honor Guam's World War II Survivors.
Your support and contributions will help fund our campaign. Please allow me to thank you in advance.