Barnet proposes renewal of bailout program for Guam businesses
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Sen. Chris Barnett has introduced a bill appropriating an additional $10 million to local businesses that are still struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic,
Bill 59-37 proposes to tap into the unappropriated surpluses from the general fund to allow the renewal of the Local Employers’ Assistance Program or
The administration initiated LEAP in 2021 to provide lifesavers for local businesses that suffered major losses during the pandemic which resulted in reduced work hours, furloughs, lay-offs, business closures and border shutdowns that halted tourism.
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Barnett said he introduced the bill on the heels of the 22 percent raises for GovGuam employees under the General Pay Plan.
“We have a duty to do what we can to lift up both the public and the private sector,” Barnett said. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”
LEAP was created in October 2021 through an executive order that allocated $25 million from the American Rescue Plan Act grant to provide direct financial assistance to local businesses.
With an original deadline of March 31, 2022, local response quickly exhausted funding, requiring GEDA to push the deadline up to Feb. 25. The administration also responded by directing $5 million more to fund the program.
Barnett noted that since LEAP's expiration, several local businesses still continue to suffer losses.
"Despite Guam’s tourism numbers increasing, the road to recovery is anticipated to be a long one. Many businesses that depended on tourism shuttered or were forced to limit services, which only added to the difficulty in attracting tourists now that the public health emergency and local travel restrictions have been lifted. Fewer businesses mean fewer attractions," states a press release from the senator's office.
"However, local businesses will have a difficult time offering more attractions without tourism money to fund expansion. Bill 59 will help such businesses expand their offerings, aiding the tourism industry and helping to resuscitate our local economy."
Sens. Sabina Perez, Telo Taitague, Joanne Brown, Chris Dueñas, Thomas Fisher and Jesse Lujan co-sponsored the measure.