Any unspent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation funds will be sent back to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In a short interview with CNMI Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente yesterday, she said the official closeout date of the PUA/FPUC program will be June 2022, and any unspent funds under the program will be returned to USDOL after.
“The official closeout date for the CNMI PUA program is June 30, 2022, but a lot depends on the PUA cases that are filed for Appeals or Reconsideration Requests from PUA claimants. Any unspent PUA funds [for benefits] will be returned to USDOL,” she said.
Fortunately, Benavente said, adjudicators are working around the clock to get every eligible claim paid out and assures that the CNMI will not return any of the funds until they are absolutely certain every eligible claim has been paid.
“We won’t return a penny until we are certain everyone has been adjudicated. Even when the PUA program closes, and we still have applicants waiting for PUA benefits, those qualified for benefits will be processed and paid accordingly. If we still have pending PUA applications to process in June or July of 2022, we will still continue to adjudicate these claims,” she said.
Currently, because of the recent memo issued by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres shutting down non-essential government office, Benavente said PUA staff are currently teleworking from home. To get updates on PUA claims, applicants must visit the DOL website for the email addresses for their respective adjudicator.
“The Department of Labor has its main administrative office open daily from 8am to 4pm, but with a skeleton crew in order to adhere to health and safety protocols. The PUA team is teleworking from home, adjudicating applications, clearing out overpayments, and assisting with follow up applicants and emails. DOL website has the public notice with contact numbers and email addresses,” she said.
According to a previous Saipan Tribune article, the U.S. Department of Labor allocated roughly $700 million specifically for unemployment assistance in the CNMI. As of last September, of the $700 million, Benavente said, only $230 million has been used so far.