The CNMI Department of Labor has pushed back the resumption of its face-to-face assistance for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
In a statement to Saipan Tribune, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said that, despite previously stating that they would resume face-to-face assistance, the department has opted to put this on hold and continue with virtual assistance.
“PUA headquarters is open only for assistance via telephone or email. Rarely do we need to meet with a PUA applicant. Instead, we are communicating only online or phone to safeguard against COVID-19,” she said.
However, Benavente said DOL will meet with some PUA applicants on a case-by-case basis.
In relation to PUA, Benavente said DOL and the Department of Finance are processing Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation disbursements using the funds they received from the U.S. Department of Labor on Thanksgiving Day last week. DOL initially held back from issuing FPUC benefits as they awaited additional funding from USDOL.
“Unfortunately, we had to hold back on paying FPUC claims because of the amount in the accounts. I want to make sure that we have more than enough for FPUC. I don’t want to pay just 1,000 applicants. I want to pay all the applicants as we move forward with this funding process with U.S. DOL,” she said.
DOL recently received an additional $27,574,600 for the FPUC program.
CNMI DOL learned on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2020, that it met federal reporting requirements for obtaining the additional $27.5 million in FPUC funding.
“The eligible PUA claimants will be receiving FPUC benefits, either by direct deposit or paper check, within the next few weeks. Claimants who opted for paper checks will be contacted by DOL to confirm their mailing address and to confirm if they wish to pick up their check instead of DOL mailing the check. The PUA claimants will be given a pickup date and time by the DOL staff. We ask that claimants do not visit the DOL offices, unless they are contacted by DOL staff. It’s imperative that we continue to follow the safety and health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the CNMI,” Benavente said.