PUA Round 2 comes with new issues

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The CNMI Department of Labor has begun accepting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. As this is the second round of this assistance, DOL says the process should be smoother but now it appears there are some new complications.

In a PUA group on Facebook, one individual said that as they were applying on the PUA portal, reduced hours was not any of the options.

Another individual said they couldn’t file for backdated claims, or claims from Dec. 27, 2020. DOL later informed them that backdated filings need to be filed through physical application.

Many were also locked out of their PUA portals as a result of inactivity and were told to apply online.

Others stated that upon getting hold of a PUA representative, they would be told that because they’re on reduced hours, they would not be eligible but could still apply.

To date, DOL has yet to clarify whether CNMI-Only Transitional Workers with expired visas qualify for PUA and whether individuals holding Employment Authorization Documents under the C09 category will qualify this time around.

Saipan Tribune tried to reach out to DOL Secretary Vicky Benavente regarding clarifications and clearer guidelines, but Benavente has failed to respond as of press time.

DOL began accepting applications for PUA and FPUC starting Feb. 16, 2021, and will continue to do so through March 13, 2021.

The PUA program provides temporary benefits to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of COVID-19. The PUA program, through the Continued Assistance Act, provides eligible applicants in the CNMI with 11 weeks of unemployment benefits starting on Dec. 27, 2020, to March 13, 2021.

Under the CAA, for weeks of unemployment beginning after Dec. 26, 2020 and ending on or before March 14, 2021, an individual collecting PUA may collect a $300 FPUC payment per week.

Due to the extensive nature of the eligibility conditions and requirements for PUA, consult the “PUA/FPUC Benefits Rights Information Handbook” found on the CNMI Department of Labor’s website at: http://www.marianaslabor.net, under “Forms and Publications” for details.

Individuals may apply for PUA if they have had a week(s) of full or partial unemployment on or after Dec. 27, 2020, through March 13, 2021, as a result of COVID-19. Individuals may file applications for PUA starting today, Feb. 16, 2021, and ending March 13, 2021.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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