A bill extending Palau’s Coronavirus Relief One Stop Shop Act (CROSS ACT) to September 30, 2021 was submitted by President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. to Olbiil Era Kelulau early this week.  The CROSS Act will expire January 31, 2021 if it is not extended.

The CROSS Act authorized $20 million dollars to support individuals and businesses that were impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.  It authorized funds to subsidized lost individual incomes and subsidize and assist affected businesses.  As of November 2020, nearly $11 million of the appropriated $20 million for COVID relief still remain in government coffers.

The proposed extension bill received support of President-elect Surangel Whipps Jr., who during his first press conference held yesterday, confirmed his support of the bill.  He said it is unrealistic to think that upon taking office on January 21st that everything will be fixed by January 31st.  With WIOA funding expiring on December 31st of this year, many Palauans will be affected and Whipps Jr. said that this is one of main reasons he supported the extension of the CROSS Act.

In President Remengesau’s transmittal letter to Senate President Hokkons Baules and House Speaker Sabino Anastacio, he urged prompt action on the bill saying that “stability” must be maintained for the people.  He said that people have a lot on their plate due to COVID impact and in this time of transition, the last thing they need is to lose their economic lifelines.  “it would be very difficult for workers, families and businesses if CROSS Act assistance were to disappear abruptly in a month’s time.”

Speaker Sabino Anastacio in a phone call with Island Times also confirmed his support of the proposal saying that the House had supported extension during the Continuing Budget discussion earlier and will support again the extension.

About 1,200 Palauans are currently getting assistance from WIOA under US CARES Act and about 800 are under the CROSS Act.  With CARES Act set to expire on December 31, 1,200 Palauans will join the 800 under CROSS ACT that will not have financial support unless CROSS Act is extended beyond January 31.

While the extension of the US Second Covid Relief Act has passed US Congress, it is still unclear when and if President Trump will sign it into law.  Furthermore, it is unclear if the assistance currently offered under CARES Act to Palau can be extended again under the new US Second Covid Relief bill.  The extension of Palau’s CROSS Act will provide Palauans continued relief until the new administration has had time to implement its recovery plans.

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