Over a week since the expiration of the CNMI Department of Labor’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the department continues to adjudicate the remaining 15% of outstanding claims.
Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said the department has adjudicated nearly 85% of PUA claims that they have received, leaving roughly 15% of claims that still need to be adjudicated and paid out.
“We’re very much close to 85% of everyone who has applied for PUA and are qualified for PUA. It’s a high percentage and I’m very happy,” she said in an interview.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, CNMI DOL received around 18,896 claims that fall under its jurisdiction. To date, roughly 3,000 PUA claims are still being adjudicated by the department.
Currently, the department is left adjudicating claims submitted for the last week of the program, which ended on Dec. 26 and some initial claims as well.
“We had several dozens of individuals submitting PUA claims through paper for the last week of December. We had a few who were filing initial claims meaning they didn’t file at all and that was amazing to see,” she said.
Benavente said the department is on track in terms of adjudicating before the second round of unemployment assistance begins.
The department has also started clearing out applications that were submitted back in July that for some reason have yet to be adjudicated.
“We’re actually into the ones that were processed since July. There were a few of those that we’re clearing out now. These could be off-island claims, they could be fraudulent claims. They are dated July and for some reason the portal didn’t push them forward or the portal red-flagged them because their address was in the United States, or their bank accounts were off-island accounts so now we have to manually go in and resolve these issues or just disqualify the claimant because it is not a qualified applicant,” she said.
On top of adjudicating the remaining claims on the PUA portal, Benavente said she is also happy with the number of fraudulent claims and overpayments that have been caught and stopped.
Benavente said its good thing that these issues were resolved for a smoother transition into the second round of unemployment assistance.