Governor Ralph DLG. Torres announced on Wednesday that CNMI Government employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are officially eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“This is welcoming news that we have been anticipating for the last several weeks as our central government and autonomous agencies deal with this unprecedented economic downturn. We have remained in close contact with the US Department of Labor (USDOL), and they have officially informed our CNMI Department of Labor that these important relief packages will be available for our government employees,” said Governor Torres.
“This global pandemic has affected economies and government budgets around the world, and with the loss of our tourism industry, there is no revenue to keep our government at full capacity. We never want to be in this position where we have to cut our personnel costs, but now we can ensure that all of our employees who have been terminated, furloughed, or have had their hours reduced will have the resources to take care of themselves and their families during this crisis.”
“I want to thank President Trump, Congress, and USDOL for this assistance and to Secretary of Labor Vicky Benavente and her team for their hard work. We are looking forward to implementing this program for government and private sector employees very soon,” added Governor Torres.
USDOL on Wednesday officially notified the CNMI Department of Labor of the eligibility of CNMI Government employees for PUA and FPUC, ensuring the protection of an estimated 6,000 government employees from executive departments and autonomous agencies.
“This was our main objective since Day One, which is to get government and private sector employees affected by the pandemic covered under these relief packages,” said Secretary of Labor Vicky Benavente.
“Knowing that our economy is run by tourism, our government revenue is negatively affected when travel is shut down for tourists. Difficult decisions have had to be made, but we are pleased that we can now help affected employees. The application period will be opened soon, and a formal announcement will be made by CNMI DOL and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force,” she added.
CNMI DOL, along with the rest of the territories, will be in training next week with USDOL to prepare processes for the program and to protect confidential information of each applicant.
CNMI DOL has been advised that the “Weekly Benefit Amount” for PUA for the CNMI is calculated at a maximum of $345 per week through December 31, 2020. Recipients will receive benefits based on income level and loss earnings.
The FPUC program provides eligible individuals $600 per week through July 31, 2020 in addition to the benefits authorized by the PUA program.
Eligibility regarding CWs and other work visa authorizations has not been confirmed by USDOL. The CNMI continues to advocate for these workers as best we can.
CNMI DOL is recommending that individuals who are planning to apply for the PUA/FPUC program should prepare their documents ahead of time. The documents include a Certification Letter from their employer, a valid ID with photo, passport, copies of the latest paycheck stubs, and Social Security number.
The Certification Letter must state the employee’s name, title, wages, and schedule of the regular working hours, and the number of reduced hours, before the layoff or termination.
CNMI DOL will be the primary agency in announcing the program and will specify the date, time, location, telephone numbers, and email addresses for the submission of a PUA and/or FPUC application.
The CNMI DOL offices, like most of the government offices located on Capitol Hill, have been closed as part of the COVID-19 response. These offices will remain closed until further notice on the PUA and FPUC application.
Residents are advised to continue following updates regarding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program through press releases and announcements from the CNMI Office of the Governor.