Only 19% of Guam’s restaurants received money from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund

Many restaurants and tourism-related businesses have been adversely affected by the lack of tourists visiting the island. A bill proposing a $500 debit card to be distributed to residents for use in local establishments is aimed at helping out these struggling businesses. (PNC file photo)

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was meant to be a lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic.

But relatively few on Guam were able to use it.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Guam Economic Development Authority’s board of directors, it was revealed that only 19% of the island’s restaurants received money from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Nationwide, that number is about 40 percent.

David John, chairperson of GEDA, said: “We are like 50% less successful as a community at capturing these RRF grants than the rest of the country as a whole. And I think some of that had to do with, as I understand it, with transmission of information, especially on the IRS side of things. That the smaller…the big ones got it. The smaller ones I don’t think got it. Because they just didn’t have the sophistication possibly to get through the IRS issues, because we’re not an IRS jurisdiction.”

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund was established by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Under the program, eligible restaurants are provided with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss, up to $10 million dollars per business and no more than $5 million dollars per physical location.

Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are spent on eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.

Conventional sit-down restaurants weren’t the only establishments eligible for the program. Food trucks, caterers, bars, bakeries, brewpubs, wineries, and distilleries were eligible as well.

Applications for the program are no longer accepted because the program’s funding has been exhausted — which means restaurants that haven’t received benefits under the program are probably out of luck.

Even if that’s the case, GEDA is still looking for ways…to assist the island’s restaurant industry and they’re entertaining the possibility that they can use federal funds to do it.

“And maybe even if it’s been exhausted, maybe if we can send a letter to SBA and look at, we think that there was something from the territory status that might have caused this. Is there anything that we can do for this, and if not, next round, if it comes out, is there anything?…can we get preferential?..anything. So they’re notified. Because if they don’t know any better, then they can’t help us, right? At least they can say sorry, there’s nothing they can do. But it doesn’t hurt to put it on record,” John said.