Businesses investigated for alleged pandemic aid fraud

QUIET IN TUMON: A number of water sports vehicles and stacks of lounge chairs are lined up in front of a hotel waiting for tourists to return, in Tumon, Nov. 18. Federal and local agencies are investigating businesses accused of defrauding programs meant to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Some businesses on Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are under investigation for allegedly defrauding or attempting to defraud federal programs meant to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenneth Lujan, Guam branch manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration, said he is unable to disclose specific information on the cases because it is an ongoing investigation.

"A collaboration of federal and local agencies, as well as the lending institutions, was established to combat or dissuade all areas of fraud within our programs," Lujan said.

The investigation into the businesses is related to SBA's Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

On Guam alone, the PPP provided $192 million in emergency relief funding to more than 2,200 small businesses.

PPP is a forgivable loan program meant to help employers keep their payroll and keep their business doors open. Guam small businesses that accessed PPP loans employed nearly 32,000 workers. The program closed Aug. 8.

EIDL, a long-term financing option, covers expenses not covered by PPP and is still available to eligible Guam businesses that continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, through the end of the year.

As of Nov. 23, the EIDL Program granted 1,322 Guam small businesses $78.445 million worth of loans.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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