Over the last two years, our island has faced unprecedented challenges. And just as the omicron variant seems to wane, we now face an additional challenge: the war in Ukraine and the additional inflationary pressure it brings.
For over a year, everyone on Guam has been subjected to constant price increases while many of the essential and popular items we enjoy have been hard, if not impossible, to find.
In addition to enduring constantly increasing prices on everything we need, we must now deal with the effects of a war beyond our control. A war that only drives prices up even further.
Too many local businesses are teetering on the edge of permanent closure or just holding on by the skin of their teeth. At the same time, thousands of local residents are looking for jobs. Too many families have left the island to seek stable employment in the U.S. mainland. Most left because they felt they had no other choice or options.
You didn’t qualify if you quit your job. So the thousands of people whose Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits ended six months ago and are still searching for jobs in a private sector economy that is almost in a coma are searching in vain. And they all had jobs before the pandemic hit.
While we all hope Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese visitors will soon return to our shores, the governor and the legislature must continue to provide additional funding and tax relief now. The governor must recognize this is not the time to keep federal funding tucked away and saved for a new hospital. Not to mention that a hospital would not be a reality for seven to 10 years in the best of circumstances.
The government of Guam can instead create a public-private partnership with Guam Regional Medical City and immediately begin to improve the conditions at Guam Memorial Hospital.
The governor should also immediately create temporary job programs designed to clean up and beautify Tumon and other key areas on island. The temporary job programs should also include a community safety program.
There are many community safety programs that could be put together to help assist GPD and allow GPD to focus on stopping the surge of armed robberies, burglaries, and assaults. These programs can help create a safer, cleaner Guam and put people back to work as we wait for the tourism industry to recover.
The governor and the legislature should agree to reduce the business privilege tax from 5 to 4 percent. Furthermore, they should also temporarily waive the liquid fuel tax and as many other fees and taxes as possible.
The governor and the legislature should immediately convene meetings with the Guam Chamber of Commerce to identify what 90 days, six months and one year tax relief programs can be put in place to help provide temporary relief to both the businesses and residents of Guam.
Tax collections are millions of dollars above the government’s projected budget and the governor has hundreds of millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan funding still available. Thousands and thousands of Guam people need jobs and hundreds and hundreds of Guam businesses need more support. It is time to prevent a crisis we can’t recover from because, make no mistake, this is a crisis.
Jesse A. Lujan is a former senator who served in the 27th, 28th & 29th Guam Legislatures. Send feedback to email@example.com.