There are no local hires happening. Instead, the CNMI government is moving existing employees funded locally to federal accounts.
This was clarified yesterday by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, in response to rumors in social media saying new hires and consultants are being hired for departments and that transfers are happening, despite the hundreds of government employees being furloughed.
“Any and all hires that has been coming in, has been utilizing federal funds,” Torres said. “What we’ve been doing since a few months ago is moving all, or as much government employees, using local funds to federal grant, whether it’s 5%, all the way up to 100%, and then also looking at what federal funds do we have, and maximize hiring under those federal programs.”
To help employees during the pandemic, some federal programs offered to advance payments of salaries and expenditures, to help alleviate the effects of the crisis in the CNMI.
Last April, due to the negative economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in the CNMI, Torres advised the Office of Personnel Management to implement “extreme measures,” which meant the termination of all excepted service employees, other than employees who are in federally-funded positions, and the furlough of some Civil Service employees for a year.
Shortly following the furloughs, the U.S. Department of Labor notified the CNMI Department of Labor of the eligibility of CNMI government employees for unemployment assistance.
Government employees who have been terminated, furloughed, or have had their hours reduced, due to COVID-19, can apply for up to $345 per week of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and the supplemental $600 a week of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.
Last month, U.S. DOL approved the $70.5 million initial disbursement for the PUA and FPUC for the CNMI.