CNMI receives $27.5M for FPUC; fraudulent applications delay processing of claims


Vicky Benavente

Saipan-- Fraudulent applications for federal unemployment benefits have caused delays in the processing of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), but the CNMI Department of Labor (CNMI DOL) finally received an additional $27.5 million for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, the department announced today.

“This has been the culmination of a month-long effort between our Department and the USDOL, so this is welcoming news for the CNMI,” said Secretary of Labor Vicky Benavente.

CNMI DOL said it learned on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26 that it met federal reporting requirements for obtaining the additional $27.5 million in FPUC funding.

Benavente said as of Nov. 12, a total of 36,602 PUA and FPUC claims have been processed through the hiremarianas.com portal.

Of this number, however, Benavente said 17,931 claims were confirmed to be fraudulent and ineligible applicants.

"The claims data, which was reported by CNMI DOL to the U.S. Department of Labor, indicated that unemployment fraud had greatly affected the timeliness of processing legitimate PUA claims in the CNMI,” Benavente said.

Current estimates from the CNMI Department of Finance confirms that the additional $27.5 million in FPUC funds will cover benefits payments for the month of September through November 2020.

“The eligible PUA claimants will be receiving FPUC benefits, either by direct deposit or paper check, within the next few weeks. Claimants who opted for paper checks will be contacted by DOL to confirm their mailing address and to confirm if they wish to pick up their check instead of DOL mailing the check," Benavente said.

"The PUA claimants will be given a pickup date and time by the DOL staff. We ask that claimants do not visit the DOL offices, unless they are contacted by DOL staff. It’s imperative that we continue to follow the safety and health protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the CNMI," she added.

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