NMI distributes third round of stimulus payments; hotels occupancy up

The Northern Mariana Islands Department of Finance distributed $3.44 million to an additional 2,131 recipients of the Economic Impact Payments cards, according to a Dec. 9 release.

An additional 837 payments of $500 should be mailed out in the next three to four weeks and 635 notices have been mailed to taxpayers who have not yet received a payment due to error or ineligibility.

The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands reported 35% average occupancy among its 12 member hotels for November. The figure is eight times higher compared to November 2020, with 14,511 room nights sold out of an available 41,213, compared to 2,006 in November last year. Average rates were $135.59 compared to $144.40 last year, according to HANMI.

Occupancy rates do not include rooms at Kanoa Resort Saipan for COVID quarantine, according to a Dec. 9 release from HANMI. From Dec. 1 there are no longer hybrid quarantine requirements for tourists, but tourists participating in the Tourism Resumption Investment Plan program still receive lodging coupons. The TRIP program is due to end this year.

 

In other Saipan news, due to the closure of non-essential government offices and to minimize social gatherings due to COVID-19, the Marianas Christmas Village and Christmas Tree display organized by the Marianas Visitors Authority at Garapan Fishing Base in Saipan is cancelled. Light sculptures will be displayed, according to a Dec. 8 release from MVA.

 

Guam to see even less tourists

Nearly 5,000 airline seats have been taken away en route from South Korea to Guam, as of Dec. 6. In a Dec. 9 board meeting, Gerald SA Perez, Guam Visitors Bureau’s vice president, said it’s almost a “25% cancellation,” mostly due to concerns of the omicron variant of COVID-19. (See chart for a listing of flight changes.)

“It’s really disappointing with the omnicon thing and the negative impact,” he said.

Airline

Cancelled trips

Flight changes

Korean Air

726

 

Jeju Air

720

7 flights cancelled

Jin Air

590

2 flights cancelled

T’way

588

4 flights cancelled

Air Busan

113

 

Air Seoul

12

Flights to resume Jan. 29

Asiana Airlines

 

Flights to resume Jan. 30

 

Perez said island hotels, restaurants, bars and other tourist attractions were expecting more business in December and the beginning of 2022, especially considering November’s 593% increase in arrivals compared to last year. In addition, New Years Eve fireworks in Tumon have been cancelled, which may lead to hotel-room cancellations for many.

In any case, Perez said, Guam remains a safe destination for all visitors, due to the high vaccination rate, contact tracing, treatment and business’ compliance with pandemic health and safety rules.

 

Federal money for Guam military projects

With the passing of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act in the House of Representatives, Guam has been allotted $765 million to fund military projects, a military pay raise and missile defenses, according to a Dec. 9 release from Michael FQ San Nicholas, Guam’s delegate to Congress.

Specific projects include $50.89 million for construction at Andersen Air Force Base, $593.52 million for construction for Joint Region Marianas, $34 million for construction for the National Guard Readiness Center, $35.3 million for munitions storage igloos and $14.2 million for a SATCOM facility.

 

Former UOG professor sentenced in bid-rigging scheme

Thomas E. Marler was sentenced to 12 months and one day of imprisonment for “conspiracy to restrain trade, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering,” all federal violations. The U.S. District court ordered two years of supervised release, a fine of $20,000 and a special assessment fee of $300.

According to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands,

Marler’s two co-conspirators – John Hobart Lawrence and Jayanika Lawrence were sentenced to lighter sentences.

The three conspired to rig bids for federally funded project work pursuant to cooperative agreements between the federal government and the University of Guam, where Marler was an ecology professor, as well as principal investigator for certain projects. The three fraudulently obtained more than $200,000 through dummy companies.

 

Guam cases rise among younger age groups

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services advised Dec. 9 that the 18 to 39 age group had the highest seven-day average of cases in August and September.

DPHSS and the Guam Department of Education will host a virtual town hall meeting for parents and guardians at 6 p.m. via Zoom on Dec. 10.

 

US Postal Service seeks info on mail thefts

The U.S. Postal Service is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects who broke into post office boxes at the Tamuning and Barrigada Post Offices in November.

Contact the U.S. Postal Service at 1-877-876-2455, reference case no 3557048.

 

More roadwork on Rte. 1 in Guam

The Guam Department of Public works advised Dec. 9 that crews are performing curb and shoulder work along Marine Corps Drive from the DPW intersection in Tamuning to Asan memorial park for about two weeks.

 

And also:

GTA announced it is continuing the Fiber to the Neighborhood program of faster internet speeds in Guam, which it began in 2015.

Barrigada Heights is the latest location to receive Internet connections with speeds up to 100 Mbps, according to a Dec. 8 release from GTA.

 

For your diary:

The Guam Branch of the American Association of University Women will be holding a Holiday Luncheon Party on Dec. 11 from noon to 3 p.m. at a private residence, to raise scholarship funds. The event will include a silent auction. For further details, contact [email protected] mbj