GEDA readying commercial rent relief program for businesses

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Tumon and the restaurant industry in general have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But relief may be coming soon as GEDA is preparing a commercial rent relief program for businesses. (PNC file photo)

The Guam Economic Development Authority is readying a commercial rent relief program for businesses that are currently suffering from the lockdown caused by the pandemic.

GEDA plans to give out to qualified businesses two months worth of rental relief, or $20,000, whichever one is lesser.

According to GEDA administrator Melanie Mendiola, $5 million will be allotted to the program which can benefit some 500 businesses.

“It will help businesses with their cash flow. It will free up money used for rent which can then be used for other bills within the organization,” Mendiola said.

She said Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio informed GEDA that they have been receiving a lot of feedback, particularly in the area of commercial rent relief.

Covered by the planned commercial rent relief are food & beverage, retail, and personal services businesses such as beauty salons.

“As you’re aware, food and beverage businesses have been heavily affected. Bars haven’t been allowed at all. And they still have rents to pay although they’re not able to sell,” Mendiola said.

GEDA will be using the same definition for small business used in its original small business pandemic program. In addition, establishments have to be classified as a small business under the national Small Business Administration definition of small business.

Just for food and beverage businesses alone, Mendiola said some 219 businesses can qualify for the program.

“For retail, we are considering businesses that have brick and mortar establishments. So you should have a store and not selling out of your house or selling at a swap-meet type of setting, but actually selling products or services at a commercial storefront,” Mendiola said.

Excluded from the program are those who already qualify for GEDA’s Healthcare System Stabilization (HSS) Grant, doctor’s offices, home-based businesses, and professional offices.

“So your lawyers and accountants are not included. It is really the customer-facing small businesses wherein most of the work has to be done. The work cannot be done remotely,” Mendiola said.

According to the GEDA administrator, the governor has not yet authorized funding for the program but she is very committed to the program because she’s very committed to the needs of the small businesses and she sees the difficulties that they’re going through.

In addition, GovGuam has only until the end of this year, just over a month, to spend the CARES Act money provided by the federal government and Mendiola said they need to encumber that federal money before it lapses.

Mendiola said they are already readying the rules and regulations of the program so that when the governor approves it and the funding is allocated, they can hit the ground running.

The GEDA board has already approved a resolution authorizing Mendiola to go ahead with the preparations.

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