The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs has announced $497,248 in Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act funding to the CNMI government to enhance and strengthen government programs for reviewing and providing pandemic unemployment benefit funds in the territory.
The CARES Act of 2020, as signed into law, provides mitigation of the economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by providing unemployment insurance benefits to displaced CNMI workers. The foundation necessary to implement unemployment benefits to the people of the CNMI requires improvement. The primary goal of this grant is to enhance the CNMI’s management of Disaster Pandemic Assistance programs through the following objectives:
• Fund critical technical training needed to fully understand the activities associated with implementing unemployment insurance programs in the CNMI;
• Develop unemployment insurance programs in the CNMI;
• Improve and expand programs to ensure the timeliness of disaster/pandemic assistance; and
• Establish accountability and financial management systems associated with implementing unemployment insurance programs.
“CARES Act funding will be used to help the CNMI government develop the capacity to handle, distribute, and track the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance/Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation,” said OIA director and acting assistant secretary Nikolao Pula. “We are happy to see they are also leveraging the experience that is available in other territories such as the Virgin Islands to develop their program.”
Since the CNMI was hit by two Category 5- typhoons since 2015, the territory has experienced economic setbacks while rebuilding from the typhoons and now has added impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The CNMI does not have an established unemployment insurance system and will use the funds for a dedicated UI application processing location, training equipment, and comprehensive training workshops on adherence to unemployment insurance program statutes and regulations. The CNMI Department of Labor has been improvising to retraining staff to handle and expedite these programs and will establish a dedicated program to provide effective management of these funds.
The CNMI is currently working with the U.S. Department of Labor to determine appropriate software and system needs for the implementation of PUA/FPUC and unemployment insurance in the CNMI. (PR)