Labor clarifies number of PUA claimants

DOL continues to assist claimants with errors in order to expedite payment
Posted on Nov 19 2020


The CNMI Department of Labor issued clarification yesterday anout the number of legitimate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation claimants in the CNMI.

As of Nov. 14, 2020, CNMI DOL has received 36,602 claims through the portal, but 17,931 of these claims are from the U.S. mainland and Hawaii and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the CNMI PUA program.

The official number of PUA claims in the CNMI is 18,671. Of that number, 11,785 (or 63% of all claims) have been adjudicated, meaning claimants have received an approval or denial notification in line with federal program requirements.

As of Nov. 18, 2020, CNMI DOL has paid over $108.4 million in PUA and FPUC benefits. Since June, more than $72 million in PUA funds and more than $86 million in FPUC funds have been obligated for current, ongoing, and future payments after adjudication.

Payments to “approved claims with zero errors” are ongoing as an additional $25.9 million in PUA benefits will be paid out through the Thanksgiving week. Claimants with direct deposits will see funds as early as next week, while paper checks take additional days for processing.

Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente stated that claims with zero errors have already been paid, with the exception of recently approved claims that will see payouts in subsequent batches.

“Every eligible CNMI claim with zero errors have been paid or will be paid as soon as possible through this next batch. It is in all of our best interest as a community to help eligible PUA claimants support their families, find gainful employment, and ultimately overcome this pandemic. The CNMI DOL has applied for additional federal grants amounting to $12 million through USDOL to expand employment opportunities beyond PUA and FPUC as well. We are being proactive to address unemployment caused by the global pandemic,” said Benavente.

“The work has not stopped, and while PUA continues to be a complex program to administer across all states and territories, the CNMI DOL continues to manage this program in line with federal statutes and USDOL regulations. There is a strict process outlined by our federal partners in order to ensure accountability of funds and to prevent fraud. We want to see all eligible PUA claims receive their benefits—that has been the goal from the start, and we will continue to work to get all eligible CNMI claimants their benefits,” she added.

DOL assists claims with errors

CNMI DOL states that a majority of claims have been denied due to various errors.

Common errors with PUA claims that have delayed disbursement or led to denials include:

A. Lack of eligibility requirements

CWs and non-qualified aliens are unfortunately not eligible for PUA, despite the request of the CNMI government

B. Claimants have not demonstrated that their unemployment was a result of the pandemic

These claims lack employer verification and other supporting documents

If an employer notifies CNMI DOL that their employee “refuses to work,” the claimant is ineligible to receive PUA benefits

C. Filed incomplete information

D. Miscalculated earnings computation

E. Wrong banking information

Eligible PUA claimants who need assistance are encouraged to email or call 322-8870/8871/8872/8873/8874/8876/8877/8878/8879/8880 or 989-9089/9090/9093/9192.

Press secretary Kevin Bautista noted that the CNMI government has prioritized the proper administration of the PUA program in line with federal requirements and standards.

“Along with the overall COVID-19 response, Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres, Lt. Gov. [Arnold I.] Palacios, and this entire administration has prioritized PUA payments to eligible claimants by mobilizing personnel and resources to fit the demands of this very complex program. Over 100 employees from across government, including unfurloughed employees, have been assigned to assist in adjudication and troubleshooting errors in order to expedite payments,” said Bautista.

“USDOL has praised the CNMI Department of Labor as a model program in the country because of its compliance with federal requirements and is set to receive additional funding for unemployment relief in order to further expedite payments. As a government, this administration is doing everything it can to get payments out to eligible claimants in the most expeditious way possible within the requirements of the program. While many states and territories are in worse conditions and some are still months behind in payments through their PUA programs, CNMI DOL is slated to have 81% of all claims adjudicated by the end of the month. We ask all eligible claimants to remain patient as over 100 employees at the CNMI PUA program are reviewing claims and expediting payments from Monday to Saturday until 7:30pm,” he added.

CNMI DOL continues to make itself available for inquiries and assistance with claims that need assistance. Eligible PUA claimants who need assistance are encouraged to email or call 322-8870/8871/8872/8873/8874/8876/8877/8878/8879/8880 or 989-9089/9090/9093/9192. (PR)

Press Release
News under Press Release are official statements issued to Saipan Tribune giving information on a particular matter.

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