The CNMI Department of Labor is in the process of requesting the remainder of the $238 million allocation from the U.S. Department of Labor, as part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation for the Commonwealth.
Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said at the radio media briefing Monday that, with the number of applicants, the department is looking at asking for more funding for the PUA program, stressing that they cannot go on overspending federal funds.
“Although we had requested $238 million in the very beginning, we were initially granted $70 million as startup funds, and so we’re already in the process of requesting for the remainder of those,” she said.
Benavente shared that, as far as the number of unemployed people in the CNMI, the latest data, which was in June, shows that there are about 6,000 to 7,000 unemployed individuals, which she expects to have already increased.
“Since June through July, I’ve received several more notices from employers who have informed the Department of Labor that they are closing operations until further notice, so I’m sure that number has increased,” she added.
The department has targeted to disperse up to $10 million this week, for about 1,500 approved claimants under the PUA program.
The secretary also clarified that the Department of Labor does not mail any checks or make any deposits, stressing that they only process PUA applications and the approved ones get transferred up to the Department of Finance.
Benavente also tells those waiting for their paper checks to not go to the Department of Finance.
“Paper checks, those will be mailed out as they are processed by the Department of Finance. Again, in light of our COVID-19, the threat of that, and to make sure we stay on top of public health safety, we are trying to limit person to person contact,” she said. “If you have a bank account that’s on the application, deposits will go into your bank account. If you stated on your application [that] you want the paper check, those paper checks will be mailed out two weeks after the approval of the PUA application from the Department of Labor, and it gets transferred out to the Department of Finance.”