A foreign worker with a CNMI-Only Transitional Worker immigration status is claiming that she received a disqualification notice just days after applying for Round 2 of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
According to the woman, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, she received a notice that she was disqualified and ineligible for PUA benefits, less than a week after applying for Round 2 of PUA and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and contrary to previous statements that CW workers are now eligible for this federal assistance.
“The company I work for shut down because of COVID-19. I don’t understand why I was disqualified. I just received a message on my portal [yesterday] that I am not eligible, even though the CNMI Department of Labor said that CWs are now qualified for PUA,” she said.
The woman said this is comparable to Disaster Unemployment Assistance when foreign workers were encouraged to apply but were later told they were not qualified.
“They keep on putting our hopes up, then telling us we’re not actually qualified. We are suffering too. This is our home too. We give years of our life here and also pay taxes but even at least during hard times, they can’t show even a little bit of consideration for us,” she said.
She, along with other CW visa holders, had high hopes for the second round of PUA and FPUC assistance after CNMI DOL announced that CWs have officially been included on the list of qualified aliens for PUA.
A man, who has been furloughed since June 2020, said he is still hopeful that he will qualify for PUA because hope is the only thing he has left.
“All we can do is hope. What I want to put out there is that CWs don’t even want the entire amount. Even a portion of what we could get is enough. We understand that U.S. citizens will always be top priority. But all we’re begging for is enough to survive since we have been jobless for months,” he said.
Saipan Tribune tried to obtain clarifications from Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente about the specifics of CWs receiving PUA but she failed to respond despite numerous attempts.
DOL began accepting applications for PUA and FPUC last 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.