With $7 million to $8 million remaining in the Guam Economic Development Authority's $20 million pandemic assistance grant program, eligibility requirements have been expanded to help more struggling small businesses.

Small businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $1.5 million that suffered business interruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can start applying for the updated GEDA program as early as today, GEDA Administrator Melanie Mendiola said.

Currently, the GEDA program allows only those with up to $1.5 million in annual gross receipts to apply.

Mendiola said GEDA now has decided to use the U.S. Small Business Administration definition of "small business," thereby opening the grant program to as many small businesses as the funds will allow.

"We are here for you. We want this to help small businesses," Mendiola said.

The maximum grant award will also be raised, from the current $30,000 to $50,000 for each eligible small business.

Mendiola made these announcements during Friday's webinar, hosted by the Guam Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Chamber President Catherine Castro.

Review

After the Chamber webinar, Mendiola told The Guam Daily Post that GEDA is working to finalize processes for these changes, but will not likely require businesses to file reapplications.

"We will just revisit any that may have been rejected due to being above the $1.5 million (threshold)," she said.

GEDA, she said, would need to verify if businesses still fit into the SBA definition of small business.

On Guam, there are around 3,466 small businesses, according to GEDA and the SBA Office of Advocacy.

The standard small business size classification by employees is 500 employees or fewer, but the type of industry could make a difference.

Typically, a business must have less than $750,000 or between $750,000 and $35.5 million in sales, and fewer than 100 or between 100 and 1,500 employees, to be considered a small business.

$50 to $30,000 awards

Since GEDA's May 19 launching of the pandemic grant program, it has received more than 2,000 applications.

Many were rejected, however, because of incomplete documentation and other reasons. Others didn't make the cut because they make more than $1.5 million in gross revenue.

Hundreds of small businesses have been awarded the grant.

Some were awarded as little as $50. A grant award of $50, meanwhile, means the crisis-impacted small business is making about $200 a month, or about $2,400 a year in gross earnings.

Twenty-seven small businesses have so far been awarded the maximum grant of $30,000, according to Mendiola.

For more information about GEDA's pandemic assistance grant program, people can log on to www.investguam.com/smallbusiness, e-mail smallbusiness@investguam.com, or call 647-4338.

The $20 million for the GEDA program came from the nearly $118 million in direct Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Support Act, or CARES Act, funding that GovGuam received.

Other programs

GEDA's expansion of the pandemic assistance grant program also comes at an opportune time, as the application period for the SBA-administered Paycheck Protection Program closes on June 30. Some small businesses said they have not qualified for the PPP loan.

At the webinar, Mendiola encouraged Guam's small businesses to avail themselves of other programs, such as the Guam Development Fund Act and the State Small Business Credit Initiative.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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