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Chamber of Commerce calls for ‘HELP NOW’ for local businesses

Chamber chairperson, Ella Gurr, who is also a local business owner
ASG must “not just wait for the federal government”

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Chamber of Commerce is calling on ASG to “exercise immediate policies or moratorium” to help local businesses impacted with financial burdens as a result of the governor’s emergency declaration to combat the coronavirus — and not just the federal government’s financial support.

The business association also raised concerns with the government over “supply chain and trade disruption” as the global COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on goods coming from the U.S.

ASG “our businesses need help NOW,” Chamber chairperson, Ella Gurr, who is also a local business owner, told Samoa News late last week.

Among the restrictions under the COVID-19 state of emergency declaration is that business hours of operation are from 6a.m. to 6p.m. while restaurants can open until 10p.m. for drive-thru or take-away. StarKist Samoa and six of its supporting businesses have been issued an exemption.

“We have already seen a few our businesses close as well as other businesses feeling the financial burden of reduced hours,” Gurr said regarding the impact since new restrictions went into effect. “ASG needs to exercise immediate policies or moratorium to assist with our local businesses and not just wait for the federal government to help.”

“There will be shortage of supplies soon and disruption of food supply. We've been trying to advise ASG on the urgency to move; however it’s been 4 weeks and now supply and demand is at its worst with goods coming out of the US,” she points out.

The Chamber has already submitted its Economic Relief Plan to ASG in response to the COVID-19 as well as to the US Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs, she notes.

“We have not been successful working with ASG but [we] are persistent as the importance of the economic component of the pandemic needs to be addressed,” she said.

Gurr, in a Mar. 16th letter to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, notes that the Chamber and its members requested to work closely with all ASG agencies on an action to protect the territory from COVID-19 and mitigate its direct and indirect economic effects.

“Businesses of all sizes and of all industries across the island are already being impacted experiencing a significant drop in revenue,” she explained. “Without revenue, many businesses are unable to pay their employees or meet financial obligations.”

“The Chamber believes that, for almost all businesses, this is temporary event, however the long-term economic impact can be devastating. It is critical at this moment the local government assists individuals, families and businesses as they traverse this period of lost income.”

The letter was also copied to Fono leaders, along with the Chamber’s “Coronavirus Economic Relief Plan” which notes that COVID-19 has already shown economic impact by the significant slowdown not only to the Chinese economy but also the global economy.

The Chamber points out that China has become the central manufacturing hub of many global business operations, therefore any disruption of China’s output is expected to have repercussions elsewhere through regional and global value chains.

For American Samoa, “we are already seeing disruptions on supplies with 5- 6 months delay of building supplies impacted to larger companies such as Neil’s ACE Home Center and Tool Shop Inc.”

“Unfortunately for American Samoa the coronavirus pandemic has not been the only hindering factor to our economy,” according to the Chamber, noting for example, the measles outbreak — that started last November, followed by last month’s three severe-storms in one-week that “impacted our local resources of agriculture goods and now the... coronavirus.”


Among the issues raised in the Chamber’s plan, is supply chain and trade disruption. “Due to the global disruption of manufacturing supply and demand, coupled with delays and cancellation, it is imperative to build a surplus of essential food, water and preventive health care goods and supplies,” the Chamber suggested.

It also issued a warning: “At the moment we are seeing a major disruption of orders for American Samoa being cancelled due to the high demand to prioritize the supply to the domestic US market. Anticipated shortage of supplies to date as well as the upcoming months is a given.”

Import disruptions, it says, will affect all industries to include Distributors/Wholesale, Hardware Retail Trade, Transportation & Warehouse, Finance & Insurance, Manufacturing, Information & Technology, Accommodation & Food, Administrative & Support Services, etc.

“The need to build a surplus and reserve of supplies for American Samoa is imminent,” the plan recommended, with the Chamber calling on the “federal and local government partners to take critical steps to support employers during this period. Supporting employers is key to supporting employees.”

The Chamber also recommends ASG consider seeking military assistance through MAC flights to airfreight key items such as water, food and healthcare cleaning products which businesses are currently experiencing as an island-wide shortage or even out of stock.

“With manufacturer supply issues to shipping delays critical shortage of much needed goods are currently and will continue to impact the territory,” it says.

Samoa News will report in tomorrow’s edition on what Chamber members have to say about the island-wide shortage of stocks, and shipping delays, now and in the coming weeks.