HAGATNA (PACIFIC ISLAND TIMES) — Guam businesses incurred damage costs ranging from US$10,000 to US$2 million caused by typhoon Mawar, with subsequent losses as a result of protracted power, water and internet outages, according to a survey conducted by the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

“Member businesses have reported that the access to diesel fuel and gasoline right after the storm caused much confusion and disruption in their business operations,” said Catherine Castro, chamber president.

 “The lack of robust and stable telecommunications immediately after the storm’s battery of the island and the days following the storm was another critical concern in the survey.”

Barely reemerging from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that brought the economy to a near standstill, Guam’s business sector is now faced with another setback.

Results of the survey conducted between 30 May and 09 June, revealed that 53 percent of Guam businesses were able to operate their businesses after the storm, while 30 percent opened with limited hours, and 17 percent remained closed. 

“Typhoon Mawar left a trail of devastation on our island and restoration will take some time,2 Castro said.

While internet access was limited during the time of the survey, 97 companies responded to the chamber’s poll.

Eighty-one percent reported that they experienced adverse impacts due to Typhoon Mawar. In comparison, 12 percent responded that the storm did not negatively impact their opportunity to conduct business, while 6 percent were still assessing the impact of the typhoon on their businesses.

The chamber said one company experienced approximately US$2 million in damage, while another reported “loss sales of US$350,000 and US$10,000 of damaged goods,” in response to the question ‘What would you estimate the damages that your business has incurred?’”

Castro added that besides the continuing power and water failures, other businesses have raised concerns about the lack of immediate clearing of fallen trees, road debris, and rubbish collection as essential recovery efforts.

The Guam Chamber asked in the survey if companies were pursuing any austerity measures and what policies will be implemented. Thirty-five percent indicated that they will reduce employee hours; 9 percent reported that they would lay off employees; 37 percent will reduce hours of operation and 55 percent responded that their companies would not be pursuing any cost-cutting measures.

Describing the nature of damage sustained, a company reported having been burglarized, had ruined clothing merchandise, and experienced extensive flooding in their business. Many reported equipment and vehicle damage, spoilage of perishable goods, structural loss to buildings, and overall business interruption. There was a concern for company employees that could not report to work due to their household losses and recovery challenges as a direct result of the storm.

Over 400 members of the Chamber were invited to participate in the poll which generated 97 completed responses.

To help augment business recovery efforts from Covid-19 and typhoon Mawar, the Guam Visitors Bureau launched the Tourism Assistance Programme (TAP) on 14 June. 

The programme will specifically assist qualified small businesses that support the tourism industry with grants up to US$25,000 subject to the availability of funds, with the goal for these businesses to reopen in time for GVB’s summer campaign period in mid-July. GVB has allocated a budget of US$2 million for this grant program.

“The Tourism Assistance Program stands as a beacon of hope, offering much-needed support to those small businesses affected by typhoon Mawar,” said GVB president & CEO Carl T.C. Gutierrez. “With GVB’s unwavering commitment to our tourism industry, it paves the way for a resilient recovery, revitalizing our number one economy and uplifting businesses with opportunities for growth and prosperity.”

Another business assistance programme is provided by the U.S Small Business Administration, which opened an SBA Business Recovery Center in Guam on June 3 to provide a wide range of services to businesses impacted by the storm.

“Due to the severe property damage and economic losses inflicted on Guam businesses, we want to provide every available service to help get them back on their feet,” said SBA’s Director Tanya N. Garfield of the U.S Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Centre-West. 

“The centre will provide a one-stop location for businesses to access a variety of specialised help. SBA customer service representatives will be available to meet individually with each business owner,” she added.

Businesses of any size and private nonprofit organisations may borrow up to US$2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. These loans cover losses that are not fully covered by insurance or other recoveries.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage…. PACNEWS

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