By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Half a billion dollars in unemployment benefits circulating in Guam economy
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
GDOL detects 93,000 fraudulent claims
Despite the increased unemployment rate due to the economic stagnation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Guam is awash in cash, with more than a billion dollars in federal unemployment benefits circulating in the local economy.
The Guam Department of Labor said it has paid out more than $567.2 million in unemployment benefits as of March 15.
The total amount distributed is broken down as follows: $280.2 million in pandemic unemployment assistance, $253.2 million in federal pandemic unemployment compensation and $33.8 million in Lost Wages Assistance.
However, labor officials said numbers are not completely accurate due to the more than 93,000 fraudulent claims that attacked the hireguam.com system.
“We were hit by fraud from every angle in every way possible. This includes identity theft, people using fake Guam addresses, fake names and ethnicities," Labor DirectorDavid Dell’Isola said. "While the agency staff has worked hard to filter out fraudulent data, the system-generated breakdowns are still slightly skewed. Please use these numbers as an approximate snapshot of Guam’s pandemic unemployment claimants."
GDOL has released initial statistical data on PUA claims as of Feb. 24 and monetary data as of March 15.
" The largest batch came in the week ending June 27, 2020, and totaled $77.7 million. The next largest payment of $61.2 million was paid out for the week ending Aug. 8, 2020," GDOL said. Out of about 29,000 claimants, 15,291 identified as female, and 13,345 identified as male. A small number of people opted not to disclose their gender, 136. Most applicants were between the ages of 25-54 with a totalof 18,128 people. Senior citizens 55 years and older totaled5,373. Youth 16-24 totaled 5,273.
The largest ethnic population was Filipino with 11,834 applicants. The second largest was Chamorro/Guamanian with 9,124 applicants. Federated States of Micronesia applicants made up the third largest ethnicity with 5,174 applicants. The smallest ethnic group was Indian with 29 applicants.
For education levels, most applicants received their high school diploma, 13,625 people. The second largest group of 4,882 people had attended some college but did not complete it. The smallest group of 36 received their doctorate degrees.
The majority of applicants marked they were employed with reduced hours, totaling 12,418 individuals. The second largest group stated they were completely unemployed, 9,450 people. Next, 6,334 stated they were furloughed.
Of those employed, most claimants opted not to disclose their occupational field — 9,911. Of those who disclosed their occupations, the largest group affected were those in the food service industry at 4,334, next was sales at 3,022 and the third and fourth largest areas affected were the administration industry at 2,532 and home/building industry at 1,268.
The village breakdown total is smaller than other numbers due to factors such as off-island applications as well as alien laborers. Most applicants claimed Dededo as their village of residence with 7,585 people. The second largest group resides in Yigo with 5,199 applicants. Tamuning is third with 4,333 applicants. The smallest group of 42 claimed Umatac.
The agency anticipated that up to 38,000 workers would be negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on the pandemic employer separation notices report collected from the hireguam.com system on March 15, 2021, a total of 33,981 separation notices were generated by employers.
Though P.L. 35-86 requires employers register with HireGuam to report pandemic separation notices for their employees affected, not all employers registered and therefore this number does not reflect the total number of potentially eligible claimants in Guam.
Based on the PUA Initial and Continued Claims Summary and Detail report 131,973 initial claims were filed between May 30, 2020 and March 6, 2021. Within the same period 2,719,876 continued weekly claims were filed.