In response to allegations that the CNMI Department of Labor is holding on to federal funds, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said there are specific reasons why the notion of holding on to federal funds is “basically false.”
Speaking at a media briefing last Friday, Benavente said the territories are not allowed to execute advanced drawdowns for future disbursements and that every penny DOL ask for has to be justified followed by the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation application.
“Let’s set this record straight. First of all, there are specific reasons why the notion of holding on to federal funds is basically false. …Federal funds are placed in a federal government account [and] the territories are not allowed to draw down full amounts, unless proper justification is provided,” said Benavente.
She made the clarification in response to a statement from Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), who said last April 25 that DOL has not released about half of the $380.92 million that the federal government gave the CNMI to help those who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benavente said she has reached out to Sablan’s office and has been in communication with his office.
Benavente reported that over 6,800 who are eligible for the PUA/FPUC and the Lost Wages Program assistance have already received payments.
The 6,800 individuals include 1,000 PUA/FPUC claimants and 5,800 who are eligible for PUA and LWA. For the first two weeks of April, a total of $1.169 million were distributed to over 1,000 PUA/FPUC claimants and for LWA, a total of $4.767 million to 5,800 LWA claimants,
Benavente says there have been more than 18,000 fraudulent claims that have been intercepted, which amounts to $337 million.