$276M now ready for 20,000-plus workers waiting for unemployment benefits

GUAM LABOR DEPARTMENT: The Department of Labor is housed in the GCIC Building along Marine Corps Drive in Hagåtña as shown on April 8. The department is urging jobless Guamanians to get their documents ready for unemployment assistance. The office was not open to the public Wednesday. Kevin Milan/ The Guam Daily Post

After more than a week of delayed transfer, the initial allotment of $276 million in federal unemployment benefits is now with the Guam Department of Labor.

This comes shortly before Guam Labor expects to open the application process for employees during the last week of May.

More than 20,000 workers have so far been reported by their employers as needing unemployment relief.

Labor Director David Dell'Isola announced on Saturday that his department received the initial $276 million allotment from the U.S. Department of Labor, which had been trying to transfer the money into the payment management system since last week "but ran into system issues."

The funds have been processed and posted into the Health and Human Services Payment Management System, "and are now available," the local agency said.

Of the U.S. Labor-transferred amount:

  • $174 million is for the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program
  • $102 million is for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

Eligible Guam workers can receive up to $945 a week in unemployment benefits through July, and up to $345 a week through the end of the year.

"U.S. Labor apologized for the delay. Multiple systems are involved, but I stressed the urgency all the way up to the highest levels as USDOL. I’m pleased to see they were able to solve the problems so we can get the people of Guam the financial relief they need," Dell'Isola said in a statement.

As of Saturday morning, 1,052 employers had registered on the GDOL website hireguam.com. A reported 20,123 of their employees have been laid off, furloughed, or got reduced pay because of the pandemic.

That's nearly 53% of the 38,000 estimated workers officials anticipate will be impacted by the pandemic and the resulting closures of businesses. 

A copy of the "employee separation notice" from the employers will be needed by the workers when they apply for their unemployment benefits online.

Soon

Guam Labor is troubleshooting the system and is in the final stages of programming, for the online application process.

"Please stay tuned to the media for the announcement of when the application process opens," Dell’Isola said.

The initial allotment is part of the $924 million supplemental budget request that U.S. Labor approved for Guam’s pandemic unemployment benefits.

As the funds draw down, U.S. Labor will post another allotment to payment management system.

GovGuam officials initially thought $560 million of federal COVID-19 funds, including the $276 million for unemployment benefits, was already received and available for use as of last week, until U.S. Labor reported running into systems issues in the process of transferring the funds.

What workers need

Employees are encouraged to prepare the following documents for their PUA and FPUC benefits application:

  • a photo I.D.
  • recent pay stubs
  • letter from their employer
  • bank receipts showing deposits.

For the self-employed, they need to prepare the following:

  • current business licenses, contracts and invoices
  • 1099 tax forms
  • billing statements to their customers
  • mayor/client verification
  • recent advertisements or articles related to their service.

Not all documents are required, but more will strengthen the application, Guam Labor said.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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