The CNMI Department of Labor is providing updates regarding the federal programs it administers such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and Lost Wages Assistance programs.
Since June 16, 2020, the department has received a total of 39,002 claims for the PUA and FPUC programs. Of the total amount received, 21,000 claims fall under the jurisdiction of the CNMI. After a thorough examination of its total claims population, the department identified the remaining 18,002 as belonging to other states/territories.
According to program reports, an estimated 10,252 claims were approved for payouts and 26,241 claims (including non-jurisdiction claims) were denied, leaving roughly 2,509 claims pending adjudication.
As of this release, over $200 million in PUA and FPUC benefits have been disbursed to eligible applicants. The department estimates that by the end of the program, approximately $350 million in benefits will be disbursed.
CARES, CAA, and ARPA claims
All PUA claims received during the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act pandemic assistance period (Feb. 2, 2020, to Dec. 27, 2020) have been adjudicated and paid out, with the exception of claims that are in the reconsideration or appeals process.
According to the department, 8,226 claims (2,047 of which were brand new claims and 5,603 of which were continued weekly claims) were received during the Continued Assistance Act pandemic assistance period (Dec. 28, 2020, to March 13, 2021). Approximately 3,456 or 42% of those claims have been inspected.
The PUA program is currently accepting initial and weekly paper and online claims submissions for the American Rescue Plan Act pandemic assistance period, which runs from March 14 through Sept. 4, 2021.
LWA program updates
The LWA program is a federal program that is administered by the department through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Supplemental wages in the amount of $300 is provided to PUA recipients of at least $100 beginning Aug. 1 through Aug. 15, 2020. The CNMI was awarded three weeks of LWA assistance from FEMA.
After receiving approval from Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in March 2021, the department commenced work on identifying LWA eligible recipients and issued its first batch of payment disbursements the following month. To date, the department has disbursed $4.9 million in LWA benefits to 6,298 eligible recipients.
The department continues to work on eligibility verification for the LWA program and estimates that it will release its final batch of LWA payments by July 2021.
DOL continues to assist all claimants
The department is obligated to ensure that program integrity persists throughout the various phases of the PUA program.
According to Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, “Because the department is obligated to maintain program integrity, it must ensure that it makes every effort to negate or mitigate disbursements of inaccurate or fraudulent payments.
“While maintaining program integrity is certainly important, the department also understands its role in expediting the payment process because it recognizes the economic impact of the pandemic on families,” she stated.
The department continues to make itself available for inquiries and urges individuals to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 322-8870/71/72/73/74.
Individuals who are determined eligible for PUA must file weekly claim certifications (to demonstrate their continued eligibility) either in person or online by using any of the filing methods described above. Continued eligibility is determined on a week-by-week basis. Consult the “PUA/FPUC Benefits Rights Information Handbook” found on the CNMI Department of Labor’s website at: http://www.marianaslabor.net, under “Forms and Publications” for details.
Individuals who willfully conceal material facts or knowingly making false statement(s) to obtain PUA to which they are not entitled will be required to repay all benefits fraudulently collected and may be subject to prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 1001.
Individuals are encouraged to call 670-989-9095 to report any perceived instances of wrongdoing or fraud pertaining to the PUA/FPUC programs. (PR)