The Department of Finance has no reason to hold any funds related to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, according to Secretary David Atalig.
Responding to comments that Finance is keeping the funds in despite the many approved PUA applications by the CNMI Department of Labor, Atalig maintains that the turnaround is quick when they process what they receive from Labor.
“We understand people need their funds, people need their money. I certainly could use the funds circulating in our economy so I can generate some [business gross revenue] and have that economic activity in our community,” he said. “There’s no reason for me to hold back any money. …Please be aware when I do draw down federal funds, there are rules that I need to spend it out within 72 hours. We can’t just hold these funds. We draw down when we expect, and we try to be as accurate. [We do] not draw down a full amount because I cannot use that money for anything else.”
Atalig also explained that they cannot just randomly send checks to anyone, and that they need information from the Department of Labor.
“No data from that website portal or those applications come to my office, and so I am not able to release funds without even knowing who is applying. Once we get the information to release funds, and how much, we release it,” he said.
At the close of July, approximately $35 million in PUA and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation have been disbursed by the government to over 3,000 eligible and approved claimants.
“For the people that are waiting, I know they’re frustrated. I know they’re anxious. We are doing our best to get it out,” he added. (Iva Maurin)