The CNMI Department of Labor has reportedly collected a total of $21 million in overpayments from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs.
According to Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, as of March 31, the department has collected a total of $21 million worth of overpayments from over 3,001 claimants from the first round of PUA and FPUC payments.
“Our Benefit Payment Control unit has been very busy in collecting [the] overpayments,” she said. “We’ve been busy collecting overpayments and issuing payments as fast as we can.”
Of the 3,001 overpayment cases, 344 cases were deemed disqualified because of their immigration status while the rest were either from fraudulent claims (outside the CNMI territory claims), or miscomputed earnings.
In breaking the amounts down, Benavente said that $10 million was collected from PUA claims and $11 million was collected from FPUC claims. In addition, out of the $21 million, $12 million came from out of the CNMI territory cases, which the department deemed to be fraudulent claims.
Meanwhile, with PUA round 2, Benavente said the department has processed about 173,000 PUA claims as of last week and 144,000 FPUC claims.
Benavente said the CNMI’s number of PUA claims continue to remain at the same level as when the program was relaunched back in February.
“Every week, we’ve been seeing about 200 applications. It’s a steady pace of unemployment applicants in the CNMI. I don’t see a reduction in those numbers at this point,” she said.
Because of the high volume of claims the department receives daily, Benavente said the department has reduced the number of staff from its PUA call center and increased the number of adjudicators to help process claims from PUA round 1, 2, and the upcoming round 3.
In regards to PUA round 3, which was signed by U.S. President Joe Biden back in March as part of the American Rescue Act Plan, Benavente said the CNMI has already submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Labor for funding.
“We did submit our application to USDOL for the American Rescue Plan for PUA—what we call round 3. We’re waiting for approval for those funds soon. Hopefully, we can start to issue out payments for those claims,” she said.