‘Non-citizens must have legal status to avail of PUA’

Posted on Mar 05 2021

With the CNMI Department of Labor resuming the second round of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente is reminding non-U.S. citizen applicants that they have to have legal immigration status to be eligible for unemployment aid.

This includes CNMI-Only Transitional Workers, more commonly known as CW-1 workers; federal H-2B workers; employment authorization document holders (C-11) on parole, etc.

Those who have no valid immigration status and aren’t able to work in the CNMI will not be eligible, Benavente said.

It was also learned that these non-U.S. citizen applicants must be on island and have a legal status in order to avail of the program.

“The CWs can apply for the time that they were on the island, but not for the time that they’re off-island. Also, their work status must be valid at the time of their application,” said Benavente in a text message.

This means that if they were here from Dec. 27, 2020, to Feb. 1, 2021, the applicant can apply for those weeks. However, if they were off-island from Feb. 2 through March 13, they won’t be able to file for those weeks.

This also means those who were separated from their company but are off-island won’t be able to avail of the program.

According to Benavente, non-U.S. citizens who are awaiting status and has a receipt as proof that they are waiting for their status, might qualify. However, that it is still a case-by-case scenario, she said.

According to the PUA/FPUC handbook, before non-U.S. citizens can get their PUA benefits, their status will have to be verified first. It was learned that applicants will be able to receive a lump sum retroactive payment.

Benavente said those who are denied benefits can appeal and they are welcome to appeal the denial.

As per the PUA/FPUC handbook, if an applicant is denied benefits and disagrees with the “notice of decision on PUA claim,” the applicant can request for a reconsideration, or file an appeal, to DOL by submitting a “request for reconsideration and/or appeal” form, while also providing documents.

According to the handbook, reconsideration means that the PUA adjudicator will review its prior determination and consider any new information. Requests for reconsideration should be submitted to the DOL’s Division of Employment Services within 10 calendar days after the determination or redetermination was mailed to the applicant.

The handbook said that if an individual requests for consideration, the PUA adjudicator will issue a redetermination based on the applicable law and available evidence. If an applicant still disagrees, they can proceed with an appeal.

Requests for reconsiderations can be dropped off in person at building #1334, Ascension Drive or delivered by mail to the Division of Employment Service, P.O. Box 10007, Saipan MP 96950.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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