Members of the House of Representatives minority bloc are urging Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) to impress upon the CNMI’s federal partners to include CNMI long-term resident workers in the expanded eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.
In separate but similar letters to Torres and Sablan dated May 28, 2021, the minority bloc lawmakers said these PUA and PFUC unemployment programs have been a critical lifeline for the community and struggling economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, yet recent developments have inadvertently disqualified many long-term resident workers from receiving the benefits.
The lawmakers asked Torres to appeal to U.S. Congress in expanding eligibility under these PUA and PFUC programs. The lawmakers requested Sablan’s continued support to expand eligibility under the PUA and PFUC programs.
Originally, in order to be eligible for federal public benefit, a claimant must be a U.S. citizen, non-national citizen, or qualified alien. Considering that the CNMI’s labor market heavily relies on foreign workers, this limiting definition left many affected CNMI workers ineligible for PUA and PFUC, the lawmakers said.
With the Torres-Palacios administration’s continued requests to expand eligibility and Sablan’s support, U.S. Congress passed the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act to include a Commonwealth-Only Transitional Worker—or CW-1s—in the qualified alien definition for purposes of PUA and PFUC.
Yet despite this momentous win for the CNMI community, there are still many affected workers whose immigration status has left them without necessary assistance, such as CNMI long term residents, the lawmakers said.
They said that when many residents who were previously parolees or CW-1s applied and were approved for the recently created CNMI Long Term Resident status, they lost their qualified alien status and inadvertently disqualified themselves from PUA and PFUC benefits.
“While we understand the rationale in limiting federal public benefits, it is counterintuitive and seriously fails the people who legally live and work in the CNMI,” the lawmakers said in the letters.
The signatories in the letters are Republican Reps. Roy Christopher A. Ada, Blas Jonathan Attao, Joel C. Camacho, Angel A. Demapan, Joseph Lee Pan T. Guerrero, John Paul P. Sablan, Patrick H. San Nicolas, Ivan A. Blanco, and Ralph N. Yumul. Rep. Joseph A. Flores (Ind-Saipan) is also a signatory.