Sen. James Moylan has introduced a pair of bills proposing relief assistance to small businesses and employees impacted by the Covid-19 using Guam's share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Bill 350-35 proposes the establishment of an Economic Support Program, with a $20-million allotment, that would provide eligible individuals a cash payment of $800.
The bill would require the establishment of mechanisms for qualifications, which primarily focuses on those who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Moylan noted that the guidance provided by the Department of the Treasury for the CARES Act stipulates that the relief funds provided to states and territories can be utilized for economic support for those suffering from employment or business interruptions due to Covid-19 related business closures. Guam has received around $117 million from the Cares Act for relief efforts, hence the funds are available for usage to help those island residents affected by job losses due to the pandemic.
The bill also provides the Governor the ability to establish rules and regulations, and language has been inserted to clarify that this support program is not an extended benefit and should not affect the PUA program.
"We have sent multiple inquiries to the Governor over the weeks, asking for her support on proposals which we were establishing to help displaced individuals, including a measure that would duplicate how the War Claims was paid out earlier in the year, but have not heard back on any of our letters," Moylan said.
"Since the start of this pandemic we have prioritized finding a way to assist those whose jobs have been impacted because of the crisis, and we were committed to doing something locally as an interim measure. It's estimated to be weeks before any of the federal monies make it here, but these individuals need to feed their families now," he added. "We need to do something today, as our government has done absolutely nothing materially to help families in their time of need, and the only responses we are getting is to wait for the federal monies to arrive."
An accompanying bill introduced on Friday seeks to help small businesses, with less than 10 employees, by providing them a support grant of between $2,000 and $10,000.
Eligibility requirements for the Business Economic Support Program would be any microbusiness that were required to suspend operations for at least 30 days as of March 14, 2020, and did not attain the Small Business Administration's Payroll Protection Program.
These are mom and pop outlets, professionals, farmers, small restaurants, coffee shops, and hundreds of entities who were unable to generate revenues during the start of the lockdown yet, had to maintain a number of overhead expenditures. These are entities that may not qualify for other benefits being provided locally or federally, other than the Economic Stimulus monies, courtesy of the CARES Act.
Provisions in the CARES Act provide opportunities for the local government to allow for economic support for the individuals and businesses who have been impacted by the Covid-19 due to closures.
Moylan noted that while federal programs such as the PPP were available, many small entities either didn't have the resources on where to start the application process, or missed the deadline, hence did not attain the opportunity to generate some support.
"This pandemic has created both a public health and an economic crisis, hence thousands of our island residents, including small businesses have been severely impacted. Yesterday we released a plan to provide interim support for those who lost their jobs because of the Covid-19, while they await their federal relief monies. Today we wanted to extend this to small businesses whose operations were shut yet, may have continued to pay for certain operational expenses," Moylan said.
"These are the farmers who faced ruined crops, coffee shops which lost revenue, real estate agents who went at least a month without income, and many other small and family run operations which had to utilize their savings accounts to survive during the lockdown, many of which continued to support their employees. If we have the funds to support them and allow these monies to be invested back into the economy, we would be doing something right. It may not be much, but it's a start."