The CNMI Department of Labor is working on reopening its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program in the next few days.
During the Society of Human Resources Management’s monthly meeting last Wednesday, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said she is hopeful the department will be able to start receiving PUA applications again in the next couple of days.
Benavente said she has already submitted an application for a second round of unemployment assistance to the U.S Department of Labor.
There is still no set date when DOL will receive a response or when they will receive guidelines because Benavente said the CNMI is in competition with other territories, including Guam.
This time around, Benavente said, on top of about 18,000 individuals who were receiving PUA benefits during the first round, she anticipates the second round will provide aid to at least 8,000 CNMI-Only Transitional Workers.
During the first go around, USDOL allocated $240 million to the CNMI for unemployment assistance. To date, DOL has received and disbursed about $196 million to over 18,000 eligible applicants.
Although CW-1 workers can now apply for PUA, there are still a few details that CNMI DOL needs verified by USDOL. PUA only applies to those whose jobs were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether they were terminated, furloughed, or had their work hours cut.
Some of the things that need verification include from what date CWs can start filing for, what documents will be needed, and whether CWs with expired visas or have been terminated will qualify for benefits.
Once CNMI DOL receives the guidelines from USDOL and is granted funding, the department will immediately start the process of reopening the online portal where people can apply for PUA.
The package that President Donald Trump signed into law revives a weekly pandemic jobless benefit boost of $300 as well as the Paycheck Protection Program of grants to businesses to keep workers on payrolls. It also extends eviction protections and adds a new rental assistance fund.
In addition, the bill also allocates funding for $600 stimulus checks.