The Guam Department of Labor will have disbursed $195 million in COVID-19 unemployment benefits to displaced Guam workers by next week. The federal government provided this money to help Guam's nearly 34,000 private sector workers who were laid off, furloughed or took reduced hours because of the pandemic's economic fallout.
Without the federal government's funds, Guam's unemployed would be struggling even more.
But the federal unemployment assistance funds will not last.
Guam doesn't have an unemployment program it could pay for – on its own – once the federal funds for our jobless programs end. The end date is December 2020.
And next month, the weekly benefits will be reduced to just a third – $345 – instead of more than $900.
The private sector's nearly 50,000 workers have been severely hit by the pandemic-hit business closures. Nearly 68% of the total labor force in Guam's private sector have been without jobs or had to get by with severe pay cuts.
But the ripple effect of the pandemic on Guam's labor force is greater.
There have been at least several thousand working-age, employable Guam residents who have been classified as "out of the labor force." These are able-bodied adults who didn't have employment when the pandemic hit, so they didn't qualify for the current unemployment benefits.
These are the people whose households will be severely affected when the federal economic impact relief money runs out and when the moratorium on rent eviction is lifted.
And the chances of pre-COVID unemployed Guamanians landing jobs in the next few months are slim in the short term. Our tourism industry, according to the governor's projections, will probably not see a significant rebound of tourist arrivals until early next year. Tourism's full recovery is a year or two from now, according to the governor.
Our elected officials will have a lot on their shoulders to resolve – granted they get reelected in November – along with the new faces who will make it in the legislative race.
The current set of officials should put more effort into finding solutions for these concerns. It's the humane thing to do.
These can't wait for more tomorrows.