GVB waits on DPHSS re accepting visitors
During the Guam Visitors Bureau’s Dec. 14 board of directors meeting, Vice President of GVB, Gerald S.A. Perez, said Guam’s recovery, in terms of tourism arrivals, will be a slow process. He estimated that the island will see 60% of its previous arrivals only by fiscal 2023.

Perez also said Guam is seeing between 20 and 25 flights a week, and more will be scheduled soon, as early as February. For the three main source markets for tourism — Japan, Korea and Taiwan — there are still issues getting tourists here, but he said they are in constant contact with people in each market for when things are more viable.

GVB management has sent requests to the Guam Department of Health and Social Services regarding accepting visitors from the three above source markets, with proof of a negative PCR COVID-19 test, with no quarantine needed if length of stay is less than five days.

According to Perez, the electronic customs declaration forms used for incoming passengers at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam are coming closer to an internal test. Software development is complete for the forms, and about 40% of hardware has been received. The forms are on schedule to have internal testing completed by February, with a target rollout date in March, and GVB is developing instructional videos and signage for that rollout.

GVB management has been focusing a lot of attention towards intensified destination cleanup, including progress on Tumon Bay flooding near Hotel Row. GVB has also announced a new tour guide certification program for marine-based tours.

 

Guam PCOR 2 back in days
Guam will return to PCOR 2 on Monday, Jan. 18 according to the governor’s office. Krystal Paco-San Agustin, communication director told the Journal, “The biggest change is relative to indoor dining.” Effective Saturday – pending signing of the executive order – indoor dining will rise to 50% occupancy. Residents are still required to wear masks when not eating. Venues need at least one guest to sign in, to take temperature checks, and offer sanitizer on entry. Up to six people may sit at one table indoors.

 

Delay to planned increase in Guam minimum wage on the table
Bill 23-36 would push back the date of a planned increase in the minimum wage on Guam from $8.75 to $9.25 by a year – from March 2021 to March 2022.

Public Law 35-38 of 2019 increased the minimum wage in two steps. The first increase from $8.25 to $8.75 went into effect in March 2020.

Sen. James C. Moylan initiated the bill, which is co-sponsored by three other Republican senators. Moylan’s office, which supplied the draft law to the Journal, said the legislation has support among the civic organizations in Guam.

 

Report details Guam’s economic downturn
A University of Guam report completed in December details the downturn of Guam’s economy in 2020. Among its findings:

  • The island had 76% less visitors between January and October 2020 compared to 2019, with an estimated loss of $1.38 billion of local income and spending.
  • More than $1.6 billion of federal government pandemic assistance was infused into the island’s economy;
  • Compared to 2019, household spending in 2020 was probably 30% to 50% lower and business spending down between 50% to 70%;
  • Without federal aid in 2020, Guam’s economy in 2020 would have declined in the range of 42% to 49%, compared to 2019;
  • The official unemployment rate for Guam was 17.3% for June 2020. UOG estimates for unemployment year-to-date (January to October 2020) were 19.8% using one approach and 26.6% using another approach; and
  • Inflation estimates for the first and second quarters of 2020 were -0.6% and -0.8%, respectively.

Ma. Claret Ruane, professor of economics at the School of Business and Public Administration and others researched and wrote the report.

Articles from the Marianas Business Journal are quoted as sources. For ongoing economic updates and news, see www.mbjguam.com.  

The UOG report can be found at www.uog.edu.

 

SBA forgiving first round of PPP loans
The U.S. Small Business Administration has forgiven more than 1.1 million Paycheck Protection Program loans for a total of “over $100 billion,” according to a Jan. 12 release from Washington, D.C.

The SBA has so far received 1,346,125 forgiveness applications for approximately $170.5 billion.  SBA has made payment on nearly 85% of the applications, forgiving more than $100 billion, it said.  “For the smallest borrowers with loans up to $50,000, 88% have been approved for forgiveness,” the SBA said.

A second round of PPP loans began Jan. 11, in what is expected to be a large uptake for returning and first-time small business borrowers. This time the SBA added “operational expenditures, certain property damage costs, supplier costs and worker protection expenditures, such as drive-through areas, ventilation and sneeze guards,” as eligible expenses.

 

In other federal news:

  • The Philippines is back on the list of countries that can participate in the H-2B visa program, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security announcement on Jan. 12 in Washington, D.C., effective Jan. 19 until Jan. 18, 2022.
  • The extended Pandemic Unemployment Program will not cover workers whose hours have been reduced. Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said in a Jan. 13 release that her administration would work to “improve on the things [where] the current package fell short.”
  • Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands will receive U.S. Department of Education COVID funding Guam will receive $140 million in new relief funding for schools, according to a Jan. 12 release from Michael Q. San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress. This will be comprised of $110,563,287 to safely reopen schools, measure and address significant learning loss, and other actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students and families in K-12 schools.  An additional $33,284,456 is to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students and families in K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, and other education-related organizations.
  • Gregorio ”Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI’s delegate to Congress, said the NMI is getting another $74.4 million for education from the coronavirus relief measure enacted on  Dec. 27. “The relief act set aside $409 million for the four smaller U.S. insular areas, which was divided among them based on the formula in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” Sablan said in a Jan. 12 release.
  • Sablan reintroduced Jan. 11 legislation that would provide unlimited federal funding for the Medicaid program in the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. territories.

 

FSM expanding economic assistance plan
President David W. Panuelo said the Federated States of Micronesia said the FSM is looking at widening COVID-19 aid in the country.

Public Law 21-211, signed into law on Dec. 3, expands the FSM Economic Stimulus Package beyond the tourism sector. T

The FSM Economic Stimulus Package was developed via Public Law 21-104 on April 3, 2020. Approximately $15.5 million of funding was secured, with $12 million sourced from the 21st FSM Congress, $500,000 from the Project Development Fund, and $3 million through a grant from the Asian Development Bank.

The formula for financial stimulus is equivalent to 100% of salaries and wages paid, 100% of social security paid, 100% of power and water utilities paid, and 100% of gross revenue tax paid. As of Jan. 12, 157 FSM businesses have had $3. 8 million of assistance, according to a Jan. 13 release.

 

Guam gets tough on drugs
The Guam Office of the Attorney General said Jan. 13 that 32 grand jury indictments were issued on Jan. 11 and Jan. 12. Of those, 26 were related to alleged drug possession.

 

Guam Chamber advisories available direct to Journal readers
The Guam Chamber of Commerce and the Journal are making Chamber Member updates available for a limited time only as a public service. Here is the latest link:  

https://conta.cc/38C8kk0

Check out Chamber Member benefits at www.guamchamber.com.gu or call 472-6311 for details. mbj