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DOL still waiting for PUA funding

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The deadline to submit applications for the second round of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is just around the corner but, according to CNMI Department of Labor, they have yet to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In a brief interview over the phone, CNMI Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said that DOL has not disbursed any payments yet because there is still no funding available.

The online portal where applicants can apply for PUA/FPUC assistance was reopened less than a month before the program’s expiration, which is March 13.

According to guidelines from USDOL, the deadline for submission of PUA and FPUC claims will end on March 13. However, Benavente said DOL can’t send out payments and are still waiting for the funds.

CNMI DOL and USDOL agreed on about $185 million for the extended 11 weeks of PUA and FPUC.

Fortunately, CNMI DOL has been assured that the CNMI will receive PUA and FPUC funding and it’s just a matter of when.

Various news outlets have reported that Guam DOL is currently issuing benefits every Tuesday since reopening the PUA and FPUC program back on Jan. 14. Earlier this month, Guam DOL received over $80 million for the program.

CNMI DOL, on the other hand, only began accepting applications on Feb. 16 and to date, has not disbursed any funds yet.

In addition, Benavente said the portal is facing issues, again, and seems to be more complex than the first time around.

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.

Individuals may apply for PUA if they have had a week(s) of full or partial unemployment on or after Dec. 27, 2020, through March 13, 2021, as a result of COVID-19. Individuals may file applications for PUA starting today, Feb. 16, 2021, and ending March 13, 2021.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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