Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about workers, along with their families, who have been able to get back on their feet after losing their jobs as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and who later received temporary help from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

When Michael Muña, 29, was laid off from his job in March as tourism came to a grinding halt, one of his concerns was not being able to find another job he would be passionate about.

Fast forward to July and several referrals of his resumé later, thanks to the American Job Center and related agencies, Muña has found his passion again, working as a full-time communications specialist at a senator's office.

Prior to the pandemic, Muña was a graphic designer and communications specialist at DFS T Galleria in Tumon.

When he lost that job, he said, leaving Guam three years after coming back from California was not an option because he wants to stay "home."

Thankfully, he said, DFS not only helped employees take advantage of pandemic assistance programs but also provided severance pay that helped them get through the initial months of the pandemic while they're looking for new employment.

Free resources

With DFS' help, Muña got his resumé into the American Job Center in Anigua, a free one-stop career center for those looking for jobs and those looking to hire people.

Muña's resumé was then referred to the federally funded Dislocated Worker Program administered by the Guam Department of Labor.

The Dislocated Worker Program is designed to help people get back on their feet after they were laid off or furloughed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I don't think a lot of people realize this. There are resources to help you find a job on Guam," Muña said. "These are free resources."

He said he hopes other people will also get their resumés to the American Job Center, or at least get in touch with the center or with the Guam Department of Labor, to learn about options for them.

While not everyone may get into a new job right away, job seekers can't know for sure until they make the first step to connect with agencies that can assist, he said.

The American Job Center can be reached at 475-7000 or 475-7001, or online at dol.guam.gov and hireguam.com.

'Don't back down'

Muña said he didn't lose hope that he would find another job, banking on his skills, expertise, work experience and giving it all in everything he does.

"Don't lose hope; don't lose faith," he said. "Put yourself out there. Get your resumé out there, and don't back down."

With help from the American Job Center and the Dislocated Worker Program, Muña was temporarily hired at the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance center at Guam Community College. He assisted other displaced workers with their applications for PUA.

While he was temporarily employed at the PUA center, the American Job Center and DWP continued to help him find full-time employment by matching his skills and work experience to available jobs on Guam.

After going through interviews and the entire hiring process, Muña gained full-time employment as communications specialist at the office of Sen. Amanda Shelton.

"I'm very glad, very blessed to have all these resources to help me find a job I'm passionate about," Muña said. "From DFS helping us in the transition, to the American Job Center, the DWP and the PUA program. To this day, my case worker, Cameron Santos, still gets in touch with me asking if I'm doing all right. I'm very thankful."

The COVID-19 pandemic has displaced more than 30,000 workers, and many of them have received or are receiving federal PUA. It expires after reaching the 39-week mark.

"Guam has been through a lot before and it will get through this, too," Muña said.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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