$119M in unemployment aid

WAITING: People wait in line at the Guam Department of Labor's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program center on the Guam Community College campus Monday in Mangilao. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

When Denise Pangelinan checked her bank account on Tuesday, she couldn't help but cry.

"To be honest, I have been praying so hard for weeks," she said upon receiving her unemployment assistance. "To be able to catch up on my bills finally is a blessing."

Pangelinan was furloughed on March 17 and was laid off in April, a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on jobs and the economy.

"I have had to rely on help from my father, who is a retired veteran on a fixed income, and the help of my sister. It has been very hard mentally because you feel like you are letting your family down by not being able to provide," she said.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero announced on Tuesday the release of an additional $36.4 million in federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This second batch comes with $3.2 million in withheld income tax.

This will be followed by the release on Monday of $41 million in benefits and taxes covering error-free claims filed through June 12, the governor said.

Here's a breakdown from the Guam Department of Labor:

• First batch: $35.5 million, $3 million in taxes

• Second batch: $36.4 million, $3.2 million in taxes

• Third batch: $37.9 million, $3.5 million in taxes

By next week, $109.9 million in unemployment benefits and $9.8 million in taxes, or $119 million, would have been pumped into the local economy. The taxes are from applicants who opted to have taxes automatically taken out of their unemployment benefits.

"We are currently drawing down this amount. This amount (includes) taxes from the payment management system. I am just very happy to say that we have financially infused into our economy, through these benefits, through your use a total of $118.7 million," the governor said in her Facebook message. "This is Guam's first unemployment program which has stood up in record time – three months." 

The U.S. Department of Labor released an initial $276 million for Guam's PUA and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs.

Guam Labor Director David Dell'Isola asked for a $924 million budget, anticipating some 38,000 displaced workers over the coronavirus crisis.

32,723 displaced workers

Pangelinan is one of Guam's 32,732 workers who have been laid off, furloughed or experienced work hour reductions as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is based on the reporting of 1,837 employers via hireguam.com, Labor's special projects coordinator Hannah Cho said.

As of Tuesday, 28,725 of these displaced workers have applied for initial unemployment claims.

This leaves about 4,000 displaced workers who have yet to file a PUA claim. 

The governor urged residents to use the unemployment money to pay their bills and buy necessities for their family.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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