- By Pacific island Times News Staff
Panuelo tells citizens: 'Don't be shy, seek relief aid'
Palikir, Pohnpei — Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo urged citizens who lost their jobs or had their work hours cut as a result of Covid-19 to avail of relief aid through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
"There is no need to be shy; these are unprecedented and challenging times, and we have every intention of making sure that every eligible recipient receives assistance," Panuelo said. "Please call or visit your local Office of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance soonest so that we can help you with your application.”
On June 17, the FSM government opened offices in each of the nation’s states to assist citizens who have lost their job, or suffered from reduced income due to Covid-19, to apply for financial support under the PUA program.
PUA and the related Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program are components of of the U.S. government's Coronavirus Aid Relief and Security Act.
Both programs, though operated by the FSM, are funded through the United States and, as a result, the nation is following both U.S. Ffederal law, as well as the laws of Hawaii to implement these programs.
The PUA program provides temporary benefits to individuals whose employment or self- employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of Covid19.
Examples of individuals who may qualify for assistance are: those who are unable to reach their place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic; those who are scheduled to commence employment but do not have a job or are unable to reach their job due as a direct result of the Covid-19 Pandemic; and those whose places of employment have closed due the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The first step toward assessing if you qualify for PUA and FPUC Program assistance is to visit the OPUA website under the link provided below, visit one of the FSM Offices of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or call the OPUA hotline. For the online portal, the link is here: http://www.dofa.gov.fm/pandemic-unemployment-assistance-program/
The second step to assess if you qualify for PUA would be to complete the PUA Initial Application form. This form requires the applicant to fill out essential information about their identity and their previous employment, including a detailed explanation for how the loss of their job is causally related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
PUA covers the period beginning for the week ending Feb. 8, 2020 and ending on the week ending Dec. 26, 2020. However, the duration of PUA benefits is limited to 39 weeks per any individual. Payments will be made retroactively to the time an individual’s unemployment began, i.e. if you lost your job in February, but you apply in June, you may still be eligible to receive assistance for the months of February, March, April, and May.
The maximum weekly benefit amount for the FSM is $166 per week. Available earnings might be deducted from that amount. Individuals who receive at least $1 of PUA benefits for a week will also receive an additional $600 payment under the FPUC program. However, the FPUC is only payable between April 3, 2020 to July 31, 2020.
To be eligible for PUA, the applicant must provide self-certification that he or she is able to work and available for work. PUA is not payable to workers who have voluntarily quit their place of employment. Applicants must be citizens of the FSM or the United States or holding a satisfactory immigration status.
After filing a PUA application, a review and check will be conducted by OPUA and the Department of Finance and Administration to determine the eligibility. Each applicant will be provided with a Notice of Determination which will inform the individual if they were successful or not. PUA beneficiaries must file a weekly claim at the OPUA office in order to continue receiving the benefits.
An individual who files a PUA application, but is determined to be ineligible to receive assistance, has a right to appeal. All detailed information on how the PUA Program works, eligibility, your entitlements, and your rights of appeal are provided in the Benefit Rights Information pamphlet which is provided together with the Notice of