Guam asks USDOL to reconsider guidance for new PUA program

Guam officials are asking the U.S, Department of Labor to reconsider its new eligibility guidance for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs, which excluded workers with reduced hours from receiving additional benefits under the new law.

Although GDOL does not segregate data of claimants who are unemployed or underemployed, the impact is expected to be significant for many workers on Guam.

On Monday, Sen. Perez held a Guam Department of Labor informational hearing to provide status updates on the unemployment program authorized by Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 (Continued Assistance Act of 2020) that was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020. The act extends PUA with a weekly benefit amount of up to $345 for an additional 11 weeks until March 14, 2020 and with a phase out period until April 5, 2020. The act also reauthorizes FPUC for an additional $300 weekly amount until March 14, 2020 with no phase out period. GDOL Director David Dell’Isola, who has been in communication with USDOL to reconsider the latest guidance, has recommended to those with reduced hours to withhold making claims, instead of risking having to repay the benefits. Should the benefits be reinstated for workers with reduced hours, claims can be backdated, if applicable, to Dec. 1, 2020. For many states with unemployment programs , coverage is provided for those with reduced hours. PUA is the stopgap measure for those left out of their state unemployment programs. Guam is unique in that PUA is the only unemployment assistance available to our people. Congressman Michael San Nicolas has written a letter to USDOL making the argument that PUA is meant to complement states’ unemployment insurance programs, and should be treated as entirely separate.