The CNMI Department of Labor has confirmed that individuals who hold an employment authorization document while awaiting an adjustment in their immigration status, or green card application, do not qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Authorization.
In an interview with Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, she said C09 EAD holders do not qualify for PUA even though they are legally allowed to work in the CNMI. Benavente explained that these individuals are technically in progress to becoming lawful permanent residents, or are in limbo of adjusting their status.
Benavente said only if the individual receives their green card before the PUA program expires or their status changes to one of the qualified alien statuses’ listed for PUA will they become eligible.
She also clarified the C11 EAD holders are qualified for PUA. According to USCIS, C11 are aliens paroled into the United States in the public interest or temporarily for emergency reasons
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issues EADs to individuals who have a US nonimmigrant visa including asylee or refugee and their dependents, certain nationalities, international students, eligible dependents of employees from international organizations, diplomatic missions, or NATO, employment-based nonimmigrants, family based nonimmigrant, and EAD applicant who has filed for an adjustment of status.
EADs who are ineligible for PUA but have received PUA benefits, like CNMI-Only Transitional Workers, must pay back the benefits they received.
Benavente said that DOL’s Benefit Payment Control Unit has been investigating applications of ineligible PUA recipients who received payments to determine if fraud was committed.
“They are assigned to investigate fraudulent activity or payments that have been made such as they are not U.S. citizens or an overpayment that was made to someone who mistakenly or purposely put down something that was incorrect. For the most part, when we contacted [ineligible recipients who received PUA benefits], they come into our office and pay back the funds completely or have requested to pay back partial and the remaining on a payment plan,” she said.
Benavente said she wants to make it clear that DOL has not turned away any application, whether eligible or not. “We are mandated by USDOL to accept anyone and everyone so that we can determine whether they are eligible. We cannot turn away any applicant,” she said.
To date, CNMI DOL has collected over $108,522.46 in PUA overpayments and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation overpayments from ineligible PUA recipients.
Claimants may call tel. 322-9943/9944 or email email@example.com to report fraud/overpayment. The BPC Unit will compile the information and if its is proven that the claimant has been overpaid, an appointment will be made with the claimant to arrange a repayment plan.