GovGuam mulls COVID relief debit cards, but Shelton says don’t limit them to restaurants

5638
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 government of Guam is considering the distribution of COVID relief debit cards to island residents using federal CARES Act dollars, Sen. Amanda Shelton stated.

According to Shelton, the administration plan is patterned after a similar one in Hawaii where $500 debit cards are distributed to residents for use in restaurants.

In a news release, the senator stated that government officials are said to be working with private sector partners on a proposal similar to the Hawaii relief effort.

But Shelton says that when it comes to shoring up the local economy with federal CARES Act dollars, it is crucial to maximize the impact of every dollar invested.

Shelton is concerned about copying on Guam the effort in Hawaii that is directing tens of millions of dollars exclusively to the restaurant industry.

“I like the $500 idea,” says Shelton, “especially with the pandemic now in its eighth month. If the goal is to get people spending to give the economy a boost, then I think it would be best if that money can be spent in as many places as reasonably possible,” the senator said in the news release.

Shelton notes that businesses and their employees in every sector of the economy are hurting, not just restaurants.

“We’re already hearing horror stories from businesses that have been closed for most of the year based on their industry grouping,” Shelton notes. “Now there is talk of spending CARES ACT dollars by industry grouping too.”

Shelton says ideally an economic stimulus can benefit thousands of struggling local businesses, including restaurants. She adds that stimulus help is “absolutely needed” for both businesses and consumers.

“Every day my office is helping to connect constituents with pandemic aid services. People need to buy medication; to make car, rent, and utility payments. Some lack money for gas, phone, and internet payments. Still, others absolutely need money for food,” says Shelton. “Each one of these represents a potential payment to a business or industry, that, like restaurants, is hurting.”

“If we are going to infuse millions of dollars into the local economy in $500 allotments, then as leaders let’s do so from a position of dignity and trust. Give families the dignity to decide for themselves how to make the most of any stimulus money they receive and trust them to do so,” Shelton says. “I am certain their spending will benefit many more businesses, in addition to restaurants.”

Shelton notes further, “We are now into our eighth month of this pandemic. All of us, businesses and individuals alike, have made drastic life changes because of it. Now more than ever, we must ensure that moving forward, what CARES Act money we have left is used to help control the spread of the virus and mitigate its health, economic, and social impacts.”

##