Negative COVID-19 test could allow travelers to skip quarantine

AIRPORT: The often quiet arrivals gate at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport is shown Feb. 2. The Guam International Airport Authority board of directors approved a plan to give airlines a discount for flying from an Asian city to Guam at least once a week. Post file photo 

As the Guam airport's revenues continue to fall far short of its previous levels due to low passenger and flight numbers, local officials have applied for another set of federal grants made possible through the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The federal agency is making nearly $2 billion in grant funding available to airports across the nation.

The grant aims to help airports affected by COVID-19 under the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Coronavirus Response Grant Program, according to a Feb. 12 press release.

Guam International Airport Authority officials are waiting to hear back on what their allotment will be, said spokeswoman Rolenda Fa'asumalie.

"We've been working with the FAA on all grant apps since the first stimulus and (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) funds came out," she added, saying there are two stimulus packages coming to Guam – one under the Trump administration and the new grant under the Biden administration.

She said the federal grants will help cover operations to include payroll and benefits, as well as services and supplies.

"The stimulus bills require 90% retention of employees," she said. "The big share of all these stimulus goes to airlines."

The announcement comes at a time when Guam's visitor arrivals have declined by 97.1%, according to the latest statistics from the Guam Visitors Bureau. According to GVB, 4,526 people flew in to Guam in January 2021 compared to last January's 157,479.

And fewer passengers mean fewer flights – both of which are factors in GIAA's revenues. GIAA did receive $20 million last year in federal assistance related to COVID-19.

Program funding

The program is funded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020. It is available to more than 3,000 commercial service, reliever and publicly owned general aviation airports in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.

"President Biden has made it a priority to deliver immediate relief to our transportation sectors and their workers, ensuring they can continue to provide essential services through this pandemic and beyond," said Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. "Today's announcement is one of many steps we are taking to protect the health of America's travelers and workers, while keeping our nation's airport operations and related small businesses up and running."

Most of the funds will go toward helping keep people safe and in jobs by reimbursing operational expenses, debt service payments and costs related to combating the spread of pathogens at the airports, according to the FAA. The program also includes money for rent relief to airport concessions and to support FAA contract towers for items such as cleaning and sanitizing facilities affected by COVID-19 cases.

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