FEMA approves LWA program for NMI


The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved the Lost Wages Assistance program for the CNMI to provide an additional $300 in unemployment assistance for those who lost their jobs as result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, in a previous interview with CNMI Department of Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, she said the CNMI is still awaiting FEMA’s decision on the CNMI’s request for a waiver on the matching fund requirement. The program will provide 75% of the funds that will be disbursed, while the CNMI is required to foot 25% of the amount. The CNMI has asked FEMA to waive that requirement and provide 100% of the funds.

According to FEMA’s website, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor approved the CNMI for a FEMA grant under the Lost Wages Assistance program to allow the CNMI to provide $300 per week on top of regular unemployment benefit to those unemployed due to COVID-19.

FEMA is working with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to implement a system to make the funding available to CNMI residents.

Back on Aug. 8, 2020, President Donald Trump made available up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CNMI agreed to administer a lost wages program for its citizens who are unemployed due to COVID-19.

The administration had a ballpark estimate of $17 million to $25 million funding needed to match the federal assistance program.

Since applying for the program, Benavente said the CNMI government has been looking at where to source the hundred dollars and has discussed the challenge with its FEMA partners.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores 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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