Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) said many people on Rota have yet to receive any Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments since they first applied.
In a letter Friday to Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente, Santos said she continues to receive such disheartening news and that some have complained that they have been partially paid and are waiting for past payments.
“More concerning is the fact that many recipients have stated that payment dates are reflected online, but in reality have never received a direct deposit or paper check disbursement on the specified date or weeks after,” she said.
The senator recommends decentralizing the application process and all other requirements necessary to facilitate the pre-approval and approval, which she said can be easily accomplished in their respective senatorial district.
Santos said many are confused by the online information and are concerned that they might not get paid at all.
She cited Labor’s press release published in the Saipan Tribune last Dec. 28 that stated: “As of the date of this release, barring any non-payments due to claim errors, the CNMI DOL and Department of Finance is up to date with all paper check and direct deposit disbursements and are currently working on December 2020, payment cycle.”
If the delay is caused by claim errors/issues or have been flagged for further investigation, Santos asked Labor to expedite the process to resolve these discrepancies so that people can receive their disbursements.
“If no such errors exist, please expedite the release of their disbursements,” she said, adding that she empathize with the people’s struggle because the cost of living on Rota is notably higher.
The senator said her request shouldn’t be construed to mean disbursing payment to the people of Rota first, because all eligible applicant shouldn’t have to wait this long to receive their payment or some form of communication from Labor about the delay.
Santos said in the very near future, Labor will be reopening its PUA Program and that she is hopeful that the department will resolve all pending errors/issues/flags and have expected disbursements released immediately.
She urged Benavente to take this time to streamline Labor’s system to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness so disbursements can be made in a timely manner.
Sen. Karl King-Nabors (R-Tinian), the newly appointed chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Government, Law and Federal Relations, and other committee members will be meeting with Benavente today, Wednesday at 1:30pm, at the Senate chamber to hear about the status of PUA and FPUC.
The senator said they want to also hear from Benavente regarding the status of the unemployment insurance benefit.
Sen. Edith E. Deleon Guerrero (D-Saipan) stated during the inauguration of the 22nd Legislature Jan. 11 that, as of the Dec. 16, 2020, the CNMI has $6.69 million in PUA and FPUC funds available for disbursement, and that these funds are supposed to be disbursed on a weekly basis.
Deleon Guerrero, who is a former Labor secretary, said thousands of individuals are still waiting for their weekly PUA and PFUC benefits.