Unemployment assistance to aid NMI workers affected by pandemic

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres on Sunday said he signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to enact the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA for CNMI workers affected by the economic downturn caused by Covid-19.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signs an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor on Sunday to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for CNMI workers affected by the recent economic downturn caused by Covid-19.  Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

PUA was created by the recently enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security CARES Act, which provides emergency unemployment assistance to workers who do not have unemployment insurance.

Unemployment insurance is not available within the U.S. territories, so PUA will provide eligible workers with weekly unemployment checks and jobless benefits for up to nine months.

According to the governor, “The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted our economy since February, and so I have directed our Department of Labor to conduct a study of how our businesses have been negatively impacted, as well as how we can take care of private sector workers.”

He added, “After hearing many concerns from our businesses and their employees, I am pleased to announce that we are well on our way to implementing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program to help our people in need.”

The governor thanked President Donald J. Trump and the U.S. Congress for providing this relief for workers in the CNMI.

“This is only the first step in the process, and DOL Sec. Vicky Benavente, her staff, and I will work with USDOL to make sure we roll out this relief package for laid off employees within our community,” he added.

For her part, Benavente said CNMI DOL had received the notice from Gay M. Gilbert, unemployment insurance program administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the program.

She added, “CNMI DOL estimates about 2,000-3,000 individuals will be eligible to apply for the new PUA program as part of the Covid-19 response. We sent the agreement that Gov. Torres signed to USDOL immediately after the governor signed, and we are looking forward to receiving additional guidance from USDOL- Employment and Training Administration within the next day or so. Application period will be announced shortly thereafter, and the public will be informed on how to apply.”

Gov. Torres encourages the community to be on the lookout for more announcements regarding PUA.

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