With less than 11 days remaining in this government, House of Delegates is moving to beat the clock and try to pass the bill extending the life of CROSS Act beyond January 31st to September 30, 2021.
The bill sent by President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. to both House and Senate on December 22nd, sought to extend the life of Palau’s coronavirus pandemic relief law to September 30, 2021. The bill, which was supported by the incoming president-elect Surangel Whipps Jr., would continue to provide relief to those people and businesses whose income and livelihood were impacted and continue to be impacted by lack of tourism as result of COVId-19 pandemic.
Incoming president-elect Surangel Whipps said he supported the bill because it is unrealistic to believe that economy will recover immediately upon him taking office and many people’s lives will be affected once this assistance is cut off on January 31, 2021.
Since the bill’s submission to OEK on December 22nd, no action has been taken. “We have asked Senate to put it as a rider in one of the House’s pending bills in the Senate so that it can be passed quickly. But that has not happened so we are introducing the bill tomorrow and assigning it to committee. On Wednesday, we will adopt it at 10pm on 2nd reading and wait until midnight to adopt it in its final reading and submitting it to Senate,” stated Delegate Jonathan Isechal, House Ways & Means Chairman.
Isechal said his committee has already been working on the bill, reviewing the mandated reports on the Act submitted by Ministry of Finance. “We have been working with our attorney on this and will be able to submit report quickly,” he said.
CROSS Act (Coronavirus Relief One Stop Shop Extension Act) provided specific relief to private sector, state government and NGO’s that were affected immediately by COVID-19. This bill only extends the life of Section 3 of RPPL 10-56 (CROSS Act), the COVID-19 Private Sector Relief Measures to September 30, 2021 and not others.
This particular section of the law was allocated $20 million dollars, $16 from ADB loan proceeds and $4 from Palau Reserve Fund. As of December 30, only $6.857 million has been expended leaving over $13 million still unspent.
The law, according to Delegate Isechal is a stand-alone law and not a budget law. The proposal is only to extend the life of the law until end of this FY 2021 fiscal year and with the remaining funding.
President Remengesau Jr. in his initial submission said that “it would be very difficult for workers, families and businesses if CROSS Act assistance were to disappear abruptly in a month’s time.”
Programs under Section 3, Private Sector Relief Measures include Concessionary Loans for businesses, Payment Deferral/Subsidy, Temporary Job Programs, Temporary Transfers, Unemployment Benefits and Expanded Lifeline Utility Service. Total expended to date for these programs is $6,857,738.
House of Delegates seek to pass the bill and submit to Senate for action by this week, Friday. It needs to pass the Senate next week and goes for President Remengesau’s signature before January 20th if it is to continue beyond January 31st.

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