RMI pays Covid relief

President David Kabua center, with RRE representative Norbert Reimers (to his right) and AKIA Cafe representative Ace Doulatram (to his left) at the July 10 check presentation. From left: RMI Economic Impact Assessment Committee Co-Chair Reginald White, Ministers Casten Nemra and Sandy Alfred, Reimers, Kabua, Doulatram, Ministers Chris Loeak and Bruce Bilimon, and Chief Secretary Kino Kabua. Photo: Eve Burns.

Two Majuro businesses received RMI government-provided coronavirus economic relief funds at Cabinet July 10, the first businesses to receive aid since the government approved a $6 million Covid-19 relief fund.

More businesses applying for the Covid-19 economic aid are currently under review for possible assistance, said government officials.

President David Kabua and members of the Cabinet convened to hand out the first two economic relief assistance checks to two private businesses that are experiencing losses due to travel restrictions and other restrictions imposed to prevent the introduction of Covid-19 into the RMI.

Robert Reimers Enterprises, a local business that operates a hotel, gas stations, boats charters and restaurant, and Amata Kabua International Airport AKIA Restaurant, bar, and souvenir shop were the first two businesses to receive a portion of the economic relief package. More private businesses are under review to receive the economic relief assistance from the RMI government in the coming days, said the Chief Secretary’s Office.

Friday’s payout of Covid-19 relief funds stems from the establishment, in March, of an Economic Impact Assessment ad hoc committee by the National Disaster Committee. It was tasked to conduct an assessment in order to identify the economic effects of Covid-19 on the RMI. The report, “Impact of Covid-19 on the RMI Economy,” published in May 2020, determined a loss in GDP in the private sector associated with tourism and sale of goods and services in the Marshall Islands.

Based on the report, the Cabinet approved an initial $6 million economic relief package. This relief package is to be given out as Pandemic Economic Relief Assistance in FY2020 to RMI businesses in Majuro and Kwajalein, giving priority to the tourism sector.

Tourism sector includes hotels, bars and restaurants, backpackers, handicraft shops, beauty salons, souvenir shops, airport vendors, travel agents, shipping agents, and tour operators. Also eligible for Relief Assistance are tourism sector suppliers and any other businesses that can show evidence of being impacted by Covid-19.

While the primary purpose of the Pandemic (Covid-19) Economic Relief Program is to provide relief assistance to suffering businesses, it is also an opportunity to encourage companies to take measures to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions in order to improve their overall financial resiliency, said the Chief Secretary Kino Kabua in a statement.

“With each business filing of applications and financial statement, it is more evident that RMI businesses are taking prudent measures such as reducing expenses and applying cost saving measures to remain functional in the face of the current hardships,” she said.

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