With no definite word yet from the U.S. Department of Labor whether legal foreign workers in the CNMI can avail of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente is still encouraging these workers to apply for this assistance.
Speaking at the first virtual general membership meeting of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday, Benavente said that, at this point, U.S. citizens and qualified aliens such as green card holders and people with “Employment Authorization Document” are eligible to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
“We have asked the U.S. Department of Labor as to the eligibility CW-1 workers for PUA and there is no official statement yet,” she said. “…But again, we encourage everyone to apply for PUA and then we will see from there who will qualify.”
To register for PUA, business owners and employers must first register at www.hiremarianas.com. According to Benavente, since they opened the portal last May 26, some 400 employers have already registered.
“That’s a good number because every quarter, the CNMI receives about 900 quarterly submissions of compliance documents and so we are about halfway through the list of employers that we have in our system,” she said.
“We encourage all employers, whether business is open or not today, to register so we can have you on line. This system will also be used to help our job applicants to re-enter the workforce once we open businesses completely. …It will be open as soon as we get the funding from USDOL very soon,” she added.
PUA, as established by the CARES Act, provides cash benefits to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To register for PUA purposes is simple. Step 1 is for employers to register to provide information about business and representative (if any) and create a user account or username and password; Step 2 is “Employer Verification” where CNMI DOL will ask you to submit your business license and W9 Tax Forms; and Step 3 is “Separation Notices” where employers will be asked about their employees that were separated, furloughed, have reduced working hours, or terminated.
Benavente said that her office is committed to making the PUA available and accessible to everyone. “The Labor Department have been undergoing trainings and clinics since April. The clinics were on case adjudication, benefit payment control, appeals and federal reporting training. This is so because the CNMI does not have an unemployment insurance program and we have to start from scratch,” she said.
“We received our notice of award from the U.S. administrator for USDOL just a few days ago and we are hoping that the money for PUA and Federal Unemployment Compensation will be transferred to CNMI very soon,” she added.
For more information, hotlines are (670) 989-9080, (670) 989-9081, (670) 898-99083, (670) 989-9084, (670) 989-9089 (670), 989-9090, (670) 989-9093, and (670) 989-9095 (fraud hotline) and are available from 8am to 12 pm. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org.