Non-essential businesses on Guam have been ordered closed under Gov. Lourdes Leon guerrero's public emergency declaration in an effort to contain further spread of coronavirus. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
U.S. territories stand to benefit from the federal government's $100 million funding aid for workers laid off nationwide as a result of Covid-19 pandemic that caused disaster to many businesses.
“Talking with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Congressional Affairs, we confirmed that, yes, the Marianas is eligible, as are all states and insular areas, as well as Indian tribal governments," said Rep. Gregorio Kilili Sablan, the CNMI's delegate to Congress “Of course, $100 million will be used quickly with more and more Americans out of work because of the coronavirus. But this money is a down payment on much larger funding that we are preparing to pass in Congress this week.”
The federally-funded Dislocated Worker Grant program will provide eligible participants with both disaster-relief employment and employment and training activities.
These participants can include dislocated workers, workers who were laid-off as a result of the disaster, self-employed individuals who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the disaster, and long-term unemployed individuals.
Sablan said eligible workers include those laid off after their employer’s business closes or who cannot go to their regular workplace because of the social distancing requirements in place to stop the spread of the disease. Workers, who miss work to care for a family member or who are quarantined because they are sick, are also eligible. Self-employed individuals, too, who are unemployed or underemployed because of the virus, qualify for the help.
The grants can pay workers to organize or deliver medicine, food, and supplies to the elderly and others, who cannot leave home because they are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. With many people forced to shelter in place this way and Commonwealth government austerity measures, there could be an increased need for this kind of humanitarian assistance.
Jobs for dislocated workers after a typhoon often include debris removal, but similar clean-up activities are needed now. The U.S. Department of Labor says its grants can be used to hire people to clean schools or sanitize quarantine or treatment areas after their use. Training activities also can be paid for with the Dislocated Worker Grant funds.
Guam. Sen. Regine Biscoe-Lee said last week the Guam Department of Labor (GDOL) is preparing to request for the island's share of these funds.
“Every day that passes more workers are getting hours cut, or are just being sent home without pay. The first step to receiving local unemployment benefits is to provide necessary local data to our federal partners. I want to thank the Guam Department of Labor for staying on top of this critical issue, and for reaching out to the public for information to help with any grant applications that tie funds with documented job loss,” Lee said.
She urged business owners and employees affected by this pandemic to get in touch with GDOL.
GDOL is now seeking information from both businesses and workers to maximize Guam's eligibility for this federal assistance. U.S. Department of Labor reports that states and territories can only apply for Employment Recovery Dislocated Worker Grants if either of the following events occur locally:
· 50 or more individuals are laid off by one employer; or
· Significant layoffs that increase unemployment in a given community, even if the total layoffs are fewer than 50 individuals.
Eligible entities can also apply for Employment Recovery DWGs in response to layoffs caused by cancellations or shutdowns caused by Covid-19.
Employment Recovery DWGs will provide employment and training services to reintegrate eligible individuals back into the workforce.
Workers who have been furloughed or businesses that had to lay off employees can reach GDOL by emailing email@example.com.
Sharing the following information will help maximize the funds requested for the Disaster Dislocated Worker Grant and for future funding opportunities being weighed by Congress and the Trump administration:
For individual employees:
1. Name of employer that issued furlough or layoff
For business owners or managers:
1. Employer name and location
2. Number of employees laid off or are anticipated to be laid off
3. Anticipated date and length of layoffs (e.g. 1 to 2 weeks, 3 to 4 weeks, or unknown at this time)
4. Number of employees with reduced work hours or anticipated number of employees with reduced work hours
5. When hours were reduced or anticipated date to implement reduced hours
6. Specifics on reduced work week imposed (e.g. reduce to 32 hours per week, 20 hours per week, 10 hours per week, or unknown at this time)
7. Duration of reduced hours (e.g. 1 to 2 weeks, 3 to 4 weeks, or unknown at this time)