Guam survey paints grim picture of COVID effect on employment and cost of living

A survey of 507 respondents in Guam between Sept. 16 and Sept. 23 showed that half of all households have been affected by at least one employment challenge to someone in their household.

Some 38% of participants have seen an employer reduce hours or pay, 35% have worked less due to a drop in demand, 32% have had somebody in their household experience temporary furlough, 20% have seen somebody in their household laid off; 17% have seen personal business decline in revenue and 12% are unable to work due to childcare responsibilities. 

When it comes to specific financial challenges at home, 32% of residents have had difficulty paying utilities, 31% have collected food from a food drive or charity,  30% have had difficulty paying for a car loan or repairs, 25% have had difficulty paying rent or a mortgage, 20% have sought help from a local charity, 18% have had food run out without money for more, and 14% had difficulty paying for a “health crisis.”

As regards opinions on action by the administration, 34% said the government is taking appropriate action to combat the disease, 28% said the government is doing enough but did not act quickly enough, 25% said the government is not doing enough, and 9% think the government is over-reacting.

As to tourism, 43% said visitors should only be allowed if they have tested negative, 40% said Guam should not have visitors until there is a vaccine or cure, 13% said visitors from countries with low COVID rates should be phased-in and 3% said visitors should be allowed now without quarantine.

The survey also looked at resident attitudes to COVID-19 – 81% worry about getting the disease, and 67% said they are following all guidelines – as well as concerns about education, and opinions on when life will return to normal, and what the norms will be post-COVID.

The survey was prepared by Anthology Research and sponsored by ASC Trust, Bank of Guam and GTA.

It is attached here for the convenience of Journal readers.

 

Companies with construction projects to halt from Nov. 10

Guam contractors with construction projects will cease work from Nov. 14, according to a Nov. 12 release.

Janela Carrera, spokesperson for DPHSS told the Journal that DPHSS is working with the Guam Contractors Association and compiling a list of all major construction projects and companies working on such projects. “We’re already working to identify the larger ones and test their workforce,” she said. Joint Region Marianas has been advised, she said. “They’re very much aware.”

Core Tech International announced Nov. 13 that 31 employees had tested positive, and that its 1,300 employees would be tested “in the next few days.”

As at 12.30 p.m. on Nov. 13, Carrera said 500 of Core Tech’s employees had been tested.

Companies who had not been contacted could contact DPHSS themselves, she said. Smaller companies might not be required to close, Carrera said, depending on their level of interaction with larger companies with H-2 workforces and military projects.

 

Not a lot of good news from GVB

While the report to the board was detailed at the meeting on Nov. 12, Gerald S.A. Perez, vice president at the Guam Visitors Bureau did not have many pluses to share.

“JTB [the Japan Travel Bureau] does not see normalized travel to Hawaii until September 2021,” he said as part of a briefing. The organization is focused on its home market and the 20201 Olympics, he said, although 38% of Japanese want to travel overseas. Both Haneda and Narita have COVID testing facilities he said.

As to the Guam situation, Perez said, “We’re still having issues with the testing scale and the contact tracing capacity is strained.” GVB’s plan to rapid test at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam was rejected by Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, as was the proposed $10 million three-month pilot plan, due to a lack of funds. “We are exploring other possible options,” Perez said.

Rapid testing at the airport is still planned, he said, together with working on testing and tracing issues, and testing after five to seven days for arrivals. 

Visitor arrivals dropped to 1,123 as at Oct. 26 – the first month of fiscal 2021 – compared to 134, 830 in October 2019.

On the plus side, STARLUX Airlines plans to apply to fly 15 routes to U.S. destinations by 2022. The airline announced it will fly to Bangkok, Osaka and Tokyo Narita twice weekly from December. Founded in May 2018, STARLUX currently flies from Taoyunan Taipei Airport to Macau, Da Nang in Vietnam and Penang in Malaysia.

GVB now has 167 members, representing 570 potential votes in the election planned for Feb. 5. The bureau is planning in-person voting.

 

FSM announces funds balances and returns

The FSM Trust Fund saw its total assets increase from $266.9 million in fiscal 2019 to $307.3 million) at the end of fiscal 2020. The $40.4 million increase reflects direct contributions of $17.3 million from Congressional appropriations and investment gains of $23.1 million, according to a Nov. 7 release. The investment returns include dividends, interest, and market value appreciations, and are net of all fees and expenses. The FSM Trust Fund had an annual rate of investment return of 8.6% for fiscal 2020, net of all fees and expenses.

The Compact Trust Fund saw total unaudited assets increased to $780.1 million at the end of fiscal 2020. The Compact Trust Fund had an annual rate of investment return of 7.9% for fiscal 2020.

 

Military retirees to see increase for the new year

The U.S. Department of Defense announced retirees and surviving family members will see an increase of 1.3% on Dec. 31 and in January, respectively. Detailed information can be found at militarypay.defense.gov.

 

For the holiday season

The Guam Visitors Bureau is uncertain whether it will sponsor New Year’s Eve fireworks as at its Nov. 12 board meeting. It plans to have information available for its Dec. 10 board meeting.

The Northern Mariana Islands Office of the Governor announced Nov. 12 that lights damaged by Typhoon Yutu in October 2018 have been re-installed on Garapan Street and the Beach Road pathway. Additional lights are due to be installed by the end of November. 

 

For the holiday season II

The Guam Department of Labor will disburse Lost Wages Act funds to those who qualify, providing an extra $300 a week for six weeks. The goal is to get all six weeks paid out on Nov. 24 to an estimated 25,000 residents. To qualify for LWA, claimants must receive at least $100 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Dates covered are weeks ending Aug. 1 to Sept. 5. The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted Guam about $45 million to fund the extra $300. Those who qualify for all six weeks will get an additional $1,800, according to a Nov. 13 release from DOL.

Another $9.9 million will soon be mailed out by DOL for cleared claims through Sept. 10. Of the $9.9 million, $7.9 million will be in direct deposits, $1.2 million will be in paper checks and about $802,000 will be in federal withholding taxes, according to a Nov. 10 release. mbj