The CNMI Department of Labor has issued a total of 1,200 Lost Wages Assistance payments and the department is working on issuing payments to over 6,000 more.
Speaking at a news briefing last Friday, Benavente said the department has already issued LWA payments to 1,200 individuals totaling $700,000 and will be processing 6,000 more throughout the week.
“Throughout the week, starting Monday, we are processing a total of 6,000 LWA claimants in the next few days,” she said.
LWA is available to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants who received PUA payments or were cleared for payment from the Aug. 1, 2020 to Aug. 15, 2020.
LWA is an employment assistance program that receives funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Disaster Relief Fund. LWA allows distribution of an additional $300 weekly supplement to individuals who received unemployment benefits and was implemented to replace the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that expired in July 2020.
Eligible claimants don’t have to apply for LWA because DOL will go through its HireMarianas portal to determine LWA eligible individuals and will process them for payments.
Benavente said there was a delay in benefit disbursements because of issues with the portal system. “We continue to process the LWA granted by FEMA. They were also at the same time PUA claimants. We did come to a point in the portal system where things were not cooperating online but we are going to try and resolve all those portal issues so that LWA claimants can continue to receive their payments,” she said.
Benavente said individuals can expect up to $900 from LWA as it was only a three-week long benefit period.
“This is just a three-week benefit period so the max amount is $900. I received reports that there were many LWA claimants who received the $900 payment through direct deposit,” she said.
Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig assures eligible claimants that the funds are in and available and once all issues have been cleared up, the department will start processing and issuing checks as soon as possible.
“We’ve drawn down the funds from FEMA for LWA. [The] Department of Finance is ready to disburse these funds so it’s looking like the challenge is separating the LWA from regular PUA applicants. I believe we had a little glitch in our system in terms of our portal that tracks all those claimants who are eligible for LWA, so we’re hoping to get that list finalized,” he said.