More are ineligible for PUA

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More individuals would be ineligible for Round 2 of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation due to the requirement that one’s company should have completely shut down as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a PUA webinar yesterday, PUA program coordinator Colleen Diaz of the CNMI Department of Labor said that individuals on reduced hours or were furloughed whose place of employment are still open are not qualified for PUA Round 2.

For those whose company has completely shut down, DOL requires them to show proof—proof of company closure.

Fortunately, Diaz said if a sub-unit of a company was shut down as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, individuals under this sub unit might qualify.

“We do know that some organizations that have sub-units like the kitchen, maintenance…and were shut down for cost saving measures…if the individuals are working in a unit that the business closed, and they apply [for PUA], they might be eligible depending on the scenario they select,” she said.

Diaz said these guidelines came directly from USDOL and these guidelines are not open to interpretation. USDOL strictly states an individual who is working reduced hours while his or her place of employment continues to operate does not satisfy the conditions.

“USDOL has said this, ‘The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19 public health emergency. Some examples include if a business is shut down due to an emergency declaration or due to necessary social distancing protocols, the employment of affected individuals will be considered a direct result of COVID-19. While a government protocol is not necessary to satisfy this category, the claimant must be able to certify that the closure was a direct result of COVID-19 public health emergency,’” she said.

Those on reduced hours or are furloughed and their company is still operating may still qualify for PUA if they select one of the scenarios listed on the PUA guidelines but, again, Diaz said individuals need to show documents to substantiate that case.

Employers also need to provide DOL with a closure of business notice within 60 days of the closure to assist DOL in determining eligibility.

“It would be on the employer’s side. We know a lot of businesses are struggling because they are tourist based, but for the most part, you are required to provide a closure of business notice within 60 days so that assists us to know whether it is COVID-related or something you felt like doing for whatever matter. We refer to that data,” she said.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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