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  • By Pacific Island Times

CNMI eligible for Pandemic Unemployment compensation

Gov Ralph Torres

Saipan-- CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres announced over the weekend that the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Employment and Training Administration has confirmed that the CNMI is eligible for the Federal Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, in addition to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

Under the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the FPUC program provides eligible individuals $600 per week in addition to the benefits authorized by the PUA program.

“The Covid-19 global pandemic has been hurting the global economy over the last several weeks, but here in the CNMI, our economy has been hurting since February. This news that the CNMI and the US territories are now eligible for the Federal Unemployment Compensation program is much needed for the many employees in our economy that have been terminated, furloughed, or have had their hours reduced,” Torres said.

“Secretary Benavente and her hard-working team at Labor are in calls with USDOL every day to get additional confirmation on eligibility for our government employees. We remain optimistic that we will be able to take care of our government and the many private sector employees who have been affected by no fault of their own. We ask the entire community to wait for official guidance from my office and CNMI DOL on these programs and to find out who is eligible. We are working around the clock for everyone on this important assistance,” the governor added.

CNMI Secretary of Labor Vicky Benavente was informed Saturday of the CNMI’s eligibility for FPUC by USDOL ETA Steve Malliaras, from the San Francisco Regional Office.

“The notification from USDOL is one of the clarifications that we requested in order to move forward with the PUA program,” Benavente said. “There are still a few things we are coordinating with the US Department of Labor, and we are grateful for their continued technical assistance.”

As soon as the eligibility requirements, benefits and other information applicable to the CNMI, is provided by USDOL, 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.

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.

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 application.

Residents are advised to continue following updates regarding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program through press releases and announcements from the CNMI Office of the Governor.

In Washington D.C., Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the CNMI's delegate to Congress, said he is still working to make sure that CW workers in the Marianas receive the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provided in the recently enacted CARES Act.

“CW workers and the businesses that employ them are essential to the Marianas economy,” Sablan said. “Making sure those workers have some means of support, even if their employing businesses have closed temporarily because of the coronavirus, will make it possible for the Marianas to recover more quickly, once the health crisis has passed.”

The CARES Act does not specifically include or exclude CW workers from eligibility for unemployment assistance. So, Sablan has been working in Washington to assure that the U.S. Department of Labor implements the law in a way that will include CW workers.

The CARES Act requires that an individual worker be able and available to work within the meaning of state unemployment compensation law in order to be eligible for assistance. But the Marianas does not have an unemployment compensation law. CW workers and other non-U.S. citizen taxpayers are generally eligible for the “recovery rebate” of up to $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per joint filers. They must have resided in the Marianas for at least 31 days in 2020 and 183 days in the last three years.

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