CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente is asking frustrated members of the community to allow her department to do their job in regards to processing and disbursing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
In a press conference last Friday, Benavente said for those planning to practice their rights to protest against DOL regarding their long awaited PUA benefits, to just allow DOL to do their jobs because they do want to help everyone.
“Everyone has the right to protest, everyone has the right to free speech, I’m just going to ask that the people allow us to do our jobs to help other people,” she said.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres echoed Benavente’s statement stating that the administration is working hard to release payments and is asking the community allow them a couple of more days to get these payments out.
“We are trying our very best. We want to push out as much as we can. There is no benefit for us to hold anything back. I know we are trying our very best to release everything so I hope they can give us a couple of more days to put on in as much as we can and push out those PUAs that are really needed I ask for their patience,” he said.
According to Kii Aldan Hernandez Kaneshi, the protest organizer, the protest was supposed to take place last Friday but due to inclement weather, it had to be postponed. She said she is still working on a reschedule date.
Kaneshi said her reason for the protest is to get the voices of the CNMI people, out there.
“What inspired me to do the protest is because a lot of people are suffering enough due to COVID-19. Most of our people are no longer working and can’t make ends meet. We all have kids and bills to pay. What’s taking them so long? So if I can speak out and be a voice, then I’ll speak out and be a voice for our people,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gerald Narciso, in behalf of all the CNMI-Only Transitional workers whose status are still valid since the pandemic started, requested Torres to consider the position of all the contract workers when it comes to PUA.
“Like U.S. citizens, green card/EAD [holders], we are also affected greatly from the impact of this unforeseen pandemic and suffered financially like everyone else. Majority of us are working in private companies like hotels, restaurants, construction firms, and others that are hit directly due to the closing of the airport with tourists arrivals and flights are temporarily suspended,” he said in a letter to the governor.
Narciso added that majority of CWs either started working shorter hours or nothing at all with others even forced into furloughs.
“Others even have to exit due to the CW-1 renewal issues which they will be going home with nothing at all. We continuously abide by all rules and policies, paying local and federal taxes despite of the hardship we all experiencing through this pandemic. With all the rental fees, loans, and with our daily foods, we all have the same needs same with the rest of the residents here,” he said.
Narciso said he is deeply asking that Torres do something to include CWs in the disbursement of PUA benefits.
“With all of these, we are deeply asking your good office to kindly consider us CWs to be included in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) who are currently in this island that we called our second home,” he said.