Guidelines for bars out for review; loosening of other restrictions a definite maybe
Mary P. Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association said recommendations for guidelines for re-opening bars have gone to Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, the governor’s advisory group and the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

“They all have that for review,” she told the Journal.

Rhodes met “about two weeks ago” with some bar owners and owner’s representatives, she said.

GHRA also went further, Rhodes said. “I’m also recommending we update all guidelines,” she said, referencing the CDC guidelines for restaurants as well as bars. Those have not been updated since May 2020, she said.

Bars are likely to be inspected as they open for business. As to any violations that might eventuate, Rhodes said, “Public Health give you a certain timeline – 24 to 48 hours … as well as the Fire Department – on any violation of code.” Rhodes said there may be a review of occupancy levels for bars.

Announcements on further Guam businesses is expected on Feb. 19, with the potential that Guam will move into PCOR 3 again, which would allow for 75% occupancy by businesses. For restaurants, social distancing between tables or plexiglass dividers may be a condition of that occupancy.

Krystal Paco-San Agustin, director of communications for the governor, said Feb. 16 draft regulations for re-opening bars “have been received and are under review.” As to what might be announced Feb. 19, she said, “We’re probably going to see a gradual lifting of restrictions.” That would include increased occupancy for “some business activities,” she said.

As to any reduction in quarantine requirements for incoming travelers (other than individuals whose work is deemed essential), that would depend on the results of COVID samples sent to the CDC to check for new virus strains. “It’s too soon to say,” Paco-San Agustin said. Results are expected back at the end of this week, or early next week she said.


NMI House of Representatives to review bills; bills signed into law
The Northern Mariana Islands House will go into session on Feb. 19. Bills introduced include the following:
House Bill No. 22-6 would amend 4 CMC §1401(d) “to increase revenues by properly taxing tobacco products.”
H.B. No. 22-10 would “prohibit the use of certain disposable food service containers.”
H.B. No. 22-12 would amend 4 CMC § 51420 (b) to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to “establish and promulgate reasonable registration and permitting fees through adopted regulations; and for other purposes.”

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce previously objected to any increase in the cost of fees for doing business.
H.B. No. 22-19 would “repeal Title 4 Section 1709 of the Commonwealth Code in order to provide relief for working families by making them eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit; and for other purposes.”
H.B. No. 22-21 would “strengthen the tools and powers of the CNMI Government to promote and expand economic development and to establish the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority.”

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres also signed into law:
H.B. No. 21-19, HS1, (To impose a higher fee structure for the Department of Commerce, Office of the Registrar of Corporations; and for other purposes.), which became Public Law 21-37.
H.B. No. 21-11, HS1, SD1, SD3, (To clarify the powers of the Commonwealth Casino Commission and to make needed changes to the Commonwealth Code given the unique regulatory oversight of the casino industry in the Commonwealth; and for other purposes.), which became Public Law 21-38.
H.B. No. 21-104, HS1, SD1, CCS1, (To reduce the thirty-day period within which to pay the excise tax in respect to dutiable goods requiring Customs inspection and clearance to be paid upon clearing Customs; and for other purposes.), which became Public Law 21-42.

Senate communications included:
SEN. COMM. 22-3: (2/3/2021) From the Senate President re proposed revenue generating legislation—Money Transmission Transaction Fees.
Miscellaneous communications included:

MISC. COMM. 22-5: (2/9/2021) From the Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, informing the legislature of its recovery plan and request=[ing] legislative support that pertains to the annual license fee.


GDOL gets more cash in
The Guam Department of Labor announced Feb. 16 it “has received another $181 million … to continue paying unemployment benefits. The agency also ran another PUA/FPUC/LWA batch of $14.1 million to start hitting accounts by the end of the week” of Feb. 15.  


KAL extends mileage expiration date for Skypass Morning Calm members
KAL announced Feb. 10 and Feb. 16 the extension of mileage expiration dates for its loyalty program for those members who have had “limited opportunity” to fly – in some cases extending expiration to Jan. 1, 2023.  

Jin Air is the only carrier flying on the Guam-Seoul route.


Congressional stimulus bill creeps to the finish line
The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill is moving through the House Ways and Means Committee. It contains a $1,400 payment for eligible people, Earned Income Tax Credits and additional Child Tax Credits. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress; said on Feb. 12 in a news conference that the Government of Guam should receive $661 million in COVID-19 assistance and other aid. “This is expected to pass,” he said. San Nicolas said Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be extended to Aug. 29. Efforts in Guam to expand the PUA program will continue, he said. 

In a Feb. 10 release, Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan, the Northern Marianas Delegate to Congress; said the bill is expected to have “as much as $160 million for the Marianas public school system and enough funding to maintain the Marianas Nutrition Assistance Program into 2023.” Sablan said he was hopeful the bill would contain sufficient funding to rehire NMI government workers.


DOI grants for Marshalls atolls
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs announced Feb. 13 funding of $1,74 million to the Marshall Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services for the Four Atoll Healthcare Program for basic healthcare services for the people of Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap, and Utrok, the four nuclear-affected atolls in the Marshall Islands.  

DOI also awarded $1.67 million to help repatriate American Samoans stranded abroad since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.


Companies offer drug discount system
Both Calvo’s SelectCare and Moylan’s NetCare plans announced they will utilize Optum Perks pharmacy drug savings program, which offers free coupons and discount cards for prescriptions at pharmacies in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The coupons and discount cards deliver savings of up to 80% and help lower the cost of prescription drugs, according to the companies. Contact the two companies for further details. mbj