The CNMI Department of Labor will convert a majority of claimants receiving Public Unemployment Assistance paper checks back to direct deposits.
“Over the past four months, the CNMI DOL has received and serviced upwards of 5,000 in person applicants and thousands of paper checks for vetting, and in some cases, face-to-face distribution,” said Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente.
In September, many PUA claimants who opted for direct deposit payments were switched to paper check payments as a result of numerous rejections from local banking institutions. These rejections were due to incorrect checking or savings account numbers and/or incorrect bank routing numbers provided by the claimants. Due to the increasing number of rejections, there were serious concerns involving the potential disruption of the CNMI government’s financial management system.
Alternative measures were required to ensure that regular operations continued. As a result, CNMI DOL had to shift many PUA claimants to paper checks and conduct verifications prior to distribution. The move to paper check distribution also served as an opportunity to conduct further and targeted fraud investigations. Specifically, CNMI DOL was able to intercept checks that were pending investigations or prepared to go off-island.
The PUA program today is in a much better position to handle automated clearing house transactions and fraud detections. Benavente and Secretary of Finance David DLG Atalig met earlier this week to discuss the possible return to ACH direct deposits. After much deliberation of applicable ACH regulations and requirements, the CNMI government is committed to making the necessary transition back to ACH direct deposits within the next two weeks for streamlined delivery of unemployment benefits and to account for potential fraud in order to remain in compliance with federal requirements. (PR)