Frustration over unemployment cheques delay in CNMI

8:12 pm on 16 July 2020

Frustration is growing in the Northern Marianas over delayed cheques for federal assistance amid the covid-19 pandemic.

Three members of the US Congress have written to US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, asking for an explanation for the long delay in the cheques.

The three are House Education and Labor Committee chair Robert C. Scott, Natural Resources Committee chair Raúl Grijalva, and vice chair for Insular Affairs Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan.

The CNMI lawmakers told Secretary Scalia that individuals residing in the Northern Marianas, by and large, do not have the financial resources to live without income for months.

The assistance programmes would deliver unemployment cheques of US$945 per week for most eligible workers.

Thousands of CNMI government workers have been furloughed since March

The two programmes, known for their acronyms PUA and FPUA, are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that was passed by Congress last March to help workers in the U.S. displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile there's a question whether staff from the local Public School System are eligible because of summer pay.

Workers under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program are also not sure about their eligibility with CNMI Labor awaiting guidance from U.S. Labor.

CNMI Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said she understands that many in the CNMI community are highly stressed in regards to their PUA and FPUA benefits, but she hopes that, once the first batch of payments are sent out, stress levels will go down.

Benavente said the local Labor department has received over 5,000 PUA applications in the last two weeks, both online and physical applications. Around 400 are from Tinian and Rota, while 4,600 are from Saipan.