To ensure displaced workers receive financial aid, Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) is calling on Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to make the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance one of the greatest priority in the CNMI.
Manglona stressed in a letter to the governor that it is critical for the government to do everything it could to get unemployment aid money immediately into the hands of the more than 8,000 government and private sector employees that have lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let us all make PUA one of our greatest priority to ensure that all our displaced workers, both in government and private sectors, in all our islands, receive the immediate financial aid they are entitled to,” he said.
The lawmaker also raised the need to support the CNMI Department of Labor and all its manpower working hours to review and process the applications. Aside from processing applications, CNMI Labor must also report to the U.S. Department of Labor on workload activity, particularly the number of claims, weeks claims, and subject employers, as well as information about non-monetary determinations and appeals.
According to the senator, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente informed him that the department needs at least 50 more personnel to process the thousands of unemployment applications they have received. “It is crucial that we address this major understaffing issue.”
Manglona also urged Torres to “reassess, pool, and commit all limited financial and manpower resources to the Department of Labor” so that the processing of applications and distribution of assistance can be improved and made faster. “The shortcomings in the Commonwealth’s financial system undoubtedly affected our PUA distribution timeframe. We must do what we can to help alleviate the hardships and sufferings of the several thousands of individuals affected by unemployment or reduced hours.
“We must absolutely step up our efforts and give this department our full attention. The longer our people go without any income, the deeper they sink into debt, leaving them in financial ruts that can take years to overcome,” he added.