The $70.5 million approved for initial disbursement for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs in the CNMI will not only help the unemployed, but will also stimulate the local economy, said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
With the U.S. Department of Labor’s recent approval of the CNMI’s implementation plan for the release of the PUA and FPUC, Torres hopes that the unemployed start receiving the assistance funds soon.
“So we got $70 million approved by PUA and, hopefully by early next week, we should have the application, and hopefully be able to start having our unemployed receive those funding,” Torres said in an interview yesterday.
According to the governor, there are almost 7,000 unemployed in the Commonwealth. The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that nearly 39 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past nine weeks. “When you look at all of it, even in the United States, there’s more than 30 million unemployed. Here in the CNMI, we’re almost reaching 7,000. This [PUA and FPUC] will definitely help not just the family but, for sure, the economy, to have new money come in,” he said.
“Our revenue here is tourism. We don’t have that now, but with our federal partners giving us the revenue that would be rolling in, that is new money that will stimulate the economy,” Torres added.
The CNMI Department of Labor has been undergoing training from the U.S. Department of Labor on the processes, given that the CNMI has never had an unemployment program prior to the pandemic.
Employment Services director Eugene Tebuteb said in an interview last week that the U.S. Department of Labor has several types of training under the PUA program, which include claims taking, adjudication, overpayments, and appeals.
“We all have to be well-versed within each phase of the program,” he said.
There are essentially two phases of the program—the initial claims phase and the request for weekly claims. Tebuted also said that the PUA program is retroactive.
“During the initial claims, we’re not going to require your W2 forms or check stubs or employment history. All you’re going to be required to submit are two forms of ID and your social security card number,” he said. “At any time your job was lost or interrupted due to COVID-19 is the time that you can claim, up to the date you actually file your claim. The start date for the whole program is Feb. 2 until Dec. 26 of this year. This is just for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.”
The FPUC program adds a supplemental $600 to what an individual would get from PUA, and only from March 29 to July 31.
“This is $600 a week, on top of what you get from PUA. The maximum benefit for PUA is $345 a week. …If you’re still working, but your hours were reduced due to COVID-19, we take the amount of earnings you had and use it against the maximum PUA benefit of $345 a week,” he said.
For the latest information and guidance on PUA and FPUC visit marianaslabor.net.