DOL: Those on reduced hours ‘could be’ ineligible for PUA

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While still awaiting the U.S. Department of Labor advisory, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente says there is a possibility that individuals who are on reduced work hours will no longer qualify for the second round of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Benavente told Saipan Tribune in a WhatsApp exchange that it is possible that new guidelines from the United States that exclude individuals working on reduced hours from receiving PUA benefits could apply to the CNMI.

“Yes, there is a possibility [this would apply to the CNMI]. [We hope to receive] clarification from USDOL hopefully by [this] week,” she said.

Benavente said she will make sure this is the first question they will bring up in their conference call with USDOL this week. “We’re in conference call with USDOL [this] week. That’s [the] No. 1 question from us. We will keep everyone updated,” she said.

Benavente said DOL has already submitted their application for PUA Round 2 to USDOL last week. She added that DOL will release a press release on the details of the application sometime this week.

According to various media outlets, the Guam Department of Labor has confirmed that the new guidelines for PUA and FPUC state that individuals who are on reduced work hours will not qualify for PUA and that PUA is only for those who are terminated from their jobs.

USDOL guidelines issued to the Guam Labor Department states state that, for this extension of unemployment assistance, those who are still out of jobs directly because of COVID-19 are eligible to receive $345 in PUA and $300 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation starting from Dec. 27, 2020, through March 13.

Self-employed individuals whose income is still diminished also remain eligible for PUA and FPUC.

However, those on reduced work hours are no longer qualified to receive PUA.

Last week, GDOL released $20.9 million in PUA and FPUC assistance for the first batch whose claims were cleared up to Jan. 13.

The CNMI DOL closed its PUA portal back in Dec. 26, 2020, and is still waiting for funding to reopen the portal for eligible recipients to file their PUA claims for PUA round two.

Kimberly Bautista | 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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