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Senators introduce a bill to match $25M employers finacial aid program

Senators Amanda L. Shelton and Joe S. San Agustin, along with eight senators, introduced Bill 214-36, dubbed “Local Employers’ Assistance Program (LEAP) Act,” committing local funds to help businesses most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure employees keep their jobs.

The measure appropriates $25 million to the Department of Administration for the LEAP established by executive order.

“It’s up to us to continue the fight to keep our people working,” said Shelton. “This bill is about sustaining jobs and investing in the hardest-hit businesses.”

The LEAP Act will allow businesses to avail of loans from the Guam Economic Development Authority (GEDA) to mitigate financial hardship while supporting payroll and benefits costs and costs to retain employees.

After meeting with representatives from the tourism business sector, the Committee on Tourism, chaired by Shelton, made a commitment to these businesses who have requested assistance from island leaders.

Bill 214-36 will act as a local match for the governor’s commitment of $25 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funding toward the LEAP—totaling in a $50 million investment in Guam's businesses and employees.

“Business leaders from our tourism sector called on us to work together — and the LEAP is the result of the collaboration of our island’s leadership that demonstrates our commitment to keep our people working and carry our businesses through this difficult time,” said Shelton.

“The pandemic has hurt our entire community and businesses have been burning the candle at both ends,” said San Agustin. “More needs to be done. We can’t fix things overnight—but the LEAP Act will provide much-needed relief and is an important step forward.”

A UOG study has confirmed what many of Guam’s businesses have experienced—that private business contributions to our island economy fell, many jobs were lost, and many businesses were temporarily or permanently closed.

The same study confirmed that these adverse impacts were felt more by some economic sectors than others, with a finding that Guam’s tourism sector experienced the most difficulty, underperforming by 32 percent.

Within the tourism sector, 7 percent of businesses permanently closed and some businesses resorted to employee furloughs or permanent layoffs.

The measure, authored by Senators Shelton and San Agustin, is co-sponsored by members of the Democratic majority: Vice Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes, and Senators Telena Cruz Nelson, Jose “Pedo” Terlaje, Clynton E. Ridgell and Sabina Flores Perez; and minority members: Sens. Mary Camacho Torres, James C. Moylan and V. Anthony Ada.

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