U.S. President Donald J. Trump is making available a supplemental assistance of $400 weekly to Americans until December, as part of a lost wages assistance program. However, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has to request for it, and the CNMI government has to shoulder 25% of the assistance.
In an executive memorandum released Aug. 8, Trump directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in providing benefits from the disaster recovery fund and directed states, including territories, to use their Coronavirus Relief Fund, to provide financial relief to Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
The President directed up to $44 billion from the Disaster Recovery Fund to cover for the statutorily mandated 75% federal cost share.
“I am calling on states to use amounts allocated to them out of the CRF, or other state funding, to provide temporary enhanced financial support to those whose jobs or wages have been adversely affected by COVID-19,” he said. “These funds, including those currently used to support state unemployment insurance programs, may be applied as the state’s cost share with federal DRF funds.”
Trump also directed states to identify funds to be spent without a federal match should the total DRF balance deplete to $25 billion, to ensure those affected continue to receive supplemental benefits for weeks of unemployment ending no later than Dec. 27, 2020.
If the governor requests for the lost wages assistance and agrees to administer delivery and provide oversight of the program, the Homeland Security secretary, through the FEMA administrator, is authorized to make available other needs assistance for lost wages to the CNMI.
Torres, however, should agree to the cost-sharing requirement, administer the delivery of financial assistance for lost wages in conjunction with the CNMI’s unemployment insurance system.
“The secretary, acting through the FEMA administrator, shall, subject to the limitations approve a lost wages assistance program that authorizes the governor to provide a $400 payment per week, which shall reflect a $300 federal contribution, to eligible claimants from the week of unemployment ending Aug. 1, 2020,” the executive order states.
Eligible claimants are those who receive, for the week lost wages assistance is sought, at least $100 per week of any of the following benefits: unemployment compensation; Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation; Pandemic Unemployment Assistance; Extended Benefits; Short-Time Compensation; Trade Readjustment Allowance; or payments under the Self-Employment Assistant program; and provide self-certification that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The lost wages assistance program shall be available until the balance of the DRF reaches $25 billion or for weeks of unemployment ending not later than Dec. 6, 2020, whichever occurs first.