Guam Republicans remind administration Covid-19 grants are not for family and friends
Under the watchful eye of critics, the Guam Economic Development Authority on Tuesday launched the Guam Small Business Pandemic Assistance Grant that provides up to $30,000 in relief aid to small businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The program earmarks $20 million from the $117.9 million grant Guam has received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to the Office of the Governor, grants vary in size and are based on a percentage of gross receipts and awards will likely range from $1,000 to $30,000.
Qualified businesses include those that have suffered at least a 25 percent reduction in average monthly receipts during the state of the public health emergency.
"To benefit smaller businesses in the community, there will be a first round of funding set aside for businesses with gross receipts of $500,000 or below who are also not yet recipients under other federal programs," the governor's office said. "The second round of funding will benefit businesses with $1.5 million or below in gross receipts regardless of federal award status under other programs."
GEDA is now accepting applications until the $20 million exhausted or until Dec. 30, 2020, whichever comes first.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Guam, which urged GEDA to ensure a fair process in awarding the grants.
"Part of the plan includes the Rules and Regulations for this program, of which the standard Guam Administrative Rules and Regulations process will be bypassed," the political party said in a statement. "This is where it gets worrisome, because when it comes to federal monies, the administration must be mindful that the funds are not for family and friends, and a balanced approach must be provided in terms of the eligibility criteria for micro-businesses."
Republican leaders are seeking transparency in the program's management lest it opens another area for questionable decisions that involve granting awards to the politically connected.
"This is exactly what is occurring with the procurement process with hotel quarantine facilities, where many open ended questions from the community exist, thus taking away from the importance of having a facility to house potentially positive Covid-19 individuals," the Republican Party said.
Party leaders noted that since the governor declared a state of public health emergency, the administration has taken actions that lacked transparency and accountability.
"From how procurement actions were pursued, to learning of highly paid agency heads earning a COVID differential benefit, and even the constant changes in public policy where the rules for the elite differed from the rules for every other resident," the Republican Party said.
"We need to stop this practice of hiding information from the community, or just hiding in general from the people of Guam. In a state of a crisis, the levels of concerns, uncertainties, fears, and just questions in general escalate. They look to elected leadership for guidance, and unfortunately what our island has experienced, is a government that lacks transparency, ignores accountability, promotes divisiveness, and in the eyes of many, doesn’t embrace honesty."