Mendiola: GEDA can handle deluge of rent assistance applications

GEDA administrator Melanie Mendiola (PNC file photo)

The Guam Economic Development Authority recently launched a program to help businesses pay rent and to say the response has been enthusiastic would be an understatement.

The application period for the business rental assistance program began last Wednesday.

GEDA administrator Melanie Mendiola says since then, they’ve had more than 1,200 application downloads and 525 submissions.

Of those submissions, about 210 are moving on to the final determination of eligibility.

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The program’s focus is businesses whose work can’t readily transfer to telework, such as food and beverage establishments and salons.

Mendiola says GEDA’s experience with other pandemic-related programs has allowed them to iron out the wrinkles in their process and the rental assistance program has benefited.

“This is not GEDA’s first time doing this. With the Small Business Pandemic Grant, just to give you an idea, we received 2,736 applications and I believe it was in the first day we probably received eight or nine hundred applications. And so, while we continue to be very busy as an agency, this has not assaulted our agency at the same level as the Small Business Pandemic Grant. So we’re able to handle the load,” Mendiola said.

She added: “And also, I think, a lot of the mistakes as far as you know, just the learning curve, of getting something off the ground. So I think one thing that we’re happy about with this particular program is that we do believe that we’ll be able to turn around applications in a lot quicker than we were with the one we launched back in May.”

GEDA had originally projected the program would need about $5 million. This would’ve helped 500 businesses by providing either 2 months of rent or $20,000, whichever was lesser.

However, Adelup was only able to carve out about $3 million. As a result, the program was only able to provide either $15,000 or two months’ rent.

Also, initial projections are that the program will only be able to help about 300 to 400 businesses.

Although at first glance the program would appear to be overwhelmed, Mendiola says GEDA will have to wait for the dust to settle from this initial influx of applicants to figure out the best way to move forward.

It’s only after money for payouts is set aside that GEDA will be able to see how much more money may actually be needed to continue helping local businesses with either this program or something similar.

“I think at this point in time it’s really a matter of seeing what the makeup is of the current awardees. Because we see the number of businesses and we say, ‘wow, 500 businesses, you’re going to run out of money just like that.’ That’s not always necessarily the case. The number of applications that get turned in..there are some that are incomplete that will never be complete..there are some that are ineligible. And there are a lot of landlords..there are a lot of tenants, who don’t necessarily..they might be lower than the average amount of rent that we had originally projected. And so there’s a lot of things that go into that,” Mendiola said.