Members of House of the Representatives’ minority bloc will host a town hall meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe to hear some concerns and questions from the public about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The meeting will be from 5pm to 7pm.
House minority leader Rep. Tina Sablan (D-Saipan) said she and Reps. Franklin R. Babauta (Ind-Saipan), Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan), Sheila Babauta (D-Saipan), Richard Lizama (Ind-Saipan), and Donald Manglona (Ind-Rota) will receive oral and written testimonies from constituents on their experiences with the PUA program.
The bloc also invited other lawmakers, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig, the Office of the Public Auditor, and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) to attend, although it was not clear if they will be present at the meeting.
Sablan said their goal is to better understand the issues affecting implementation and the delivery of PUA services, and how these issues can be resolved going forward. “This is especially important in the event that federal unemployment assistance is extended beyond Dec. 31, and as we consider establishing a CNMI unemployment insurance program,” she said.
Several people have been complaining in social media posts and in a Facebook group dedicated to the PUA program about either not receiving their benefits yet or questioning the disbursement of funds.
Last week, Labor disclosed that, as of Nov. 18, 2020, the department and Finance have disbursed of $108.4 million PUA and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits to eligible claimants. Labor said that number is set to increase by approximately $26.3 million, barring any returns due to bank rejections, overpayments, or fraudulent applications. Labor also provided the public with the latest updates regarding the programs.