Sen. Manglona: What’s delaying PUA, FPUC release?

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WHAT is delaying the issuance of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation?

In a letter Wednesday to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Sen. Paul A. Manglona said he is following up on his initial letter on May 21 when he asked the governor to release the federal assistance “as expeditiously as we can.”

The senator noted that Guam is now in its second batch of PUA payments. Guam, he said, has a large number of applicants to process compared to the CNMI, “yet not one person has been issued a check in the CNMI.”

“While it is understandable that the shortcomings in the nation’s unemployment-insurance system undoubtedly affected our local distribution timeframe, the PUA and FPUC funds of about $70.5 million have been available as early as June 10, 2020,” Manglona said. “Our constituents, especially those whose jobs have been directly affected by this pandemic, are asking what’s causing the delay in issuing their unemployment assistance,” he added..

“Our people are frustrated with the long delay. On top of dealing with their health issues and that of their families, they are stressing over their finances, more so now that they are no longer gainfully employed. Aside from their dwindling cash resources, banks are exhausting their six-month limit on loan extensions. The longer people go without any income, the deeper they sink into debt, leaving them in financial ruts that can take years to overcome. We must do what we can as leaders to facilitate swift payments of their unemployment assistance. What can the CNMI do to start distributing payments? How can the CNMI come up to speed with Guam? Do we need more employees to handle application processing? I understand that presently we only have 10 people processing and issuing application determination,” Manglona said.

Grandstanding again

Asked for comment, Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said:

“The frustrations laid out by the senator are the same exact frustrations that everyone in the administration, particularly at the Department of Labor, feels and is motivated to address every single day of this pandemic. We’re not numb to this, and this administration, with CHCC, is letting its actions dictate its response as expeditiously as possible.

“We understand that the senator and his nameless trolls want to grandstand with the media once again, as it is another even-numbered year.

“We notice that this is the trend right now with specific members of the Legislature. As for this administration and the task force, politics is secondary to the health and well-being of our people. We continue to have the strongest response in the Pacific, and the lowest curve in the U.S.

“Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente and her hardworking staff are working day in and day out with little fanfare to expedite PUA and FPUC disbursements for those that have successfully completed a claim.

“Since PUA planning began when the CARES Act was signed into law, the governor, lt. governor, and CNMI DOL have been hard at work to ensure compliance with USDOL’s requirements. This includes Secretary Benavente’s request seeking an answer from U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan regarding his statement about the eligibility of CWs. USDOL has informed CNMI DOL that they are not, but we continue to advocate for their eligibility.

“Every eligible U.S. worker in our economy, including every furloughed government employee, will be taken care of through this process, and we have never stopped thinking of them as we move on to the working day. We want to get money into the hands of every eligible worker, and that will continue to be the focus and goal moving forward.”

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