Most of us on Guam were not prepared to be without work for the next two weeks to a month. Working-class families who already live close to the poverty line are the most vulnerable in the event of an emergency. According to a 2009 study on Guam housing, 52% of Guam’s population rent their homes. Many of us form the backbone of Guam’s workforce and tourism industry.
Many of Guam’s workers are completely without income or find their household income drastically reduced due to COVID-19. Nonsalary workers in government and hospitality, the self-employed, and those in the gig and informal economies are all impacted. While we are quarantining for the collective well-being of our island, we need to be assured that we will not be evicted or lose services because of it.
Many community families, myself included, are likely to be without power, water, phone service or even housing within the next few weeks. Lack of housing and utilities is a public health risk and will further exacerbate the spread of the virus. We need to be able to wash our hands, refrigerate our food, cook our meals and care for our elderly and disabled family members.
While the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority have announced they will not be shutting off utilities due to nonpayment until at least March 31, there is no way for us to make up our lost weeks of income. We should not be forced into debt to ensure we have access to basic services. Federal relief funds for Guam may take weeks to months to be distributed at a local level. We implore immediate action from our leaders to ensure we can get through this difficult time united as an island.