Shirley Mae V. Taisacan, 57, never imagined she would be forced to apply for federal food assistance after working almost all her life.
She was furloughed from the Hyatt Regency Guam starting on April 5 and was called in about twice since then to work up to three days to help maintain the hotel.
"Whatever I earned from working for three days, I give to my landlord. I don't want to be homeless," she said. "After June 30 and I don't make payments, my landlord may evict me, so I'm doing all I can to give any money I earn."
Taisacan is one of the 16,396 who have so far filed an initial unemployment claim with the Guam Department of Labor.
But since applying online on May 30, she said her application issues have yet to be resolved.
"It's been a long time to get my application in order. I applied on May 30. There were errors. So I call and email almost every day. One person calls me back and says it's not his department so he told me to email and dial another number. It's now June 12, and my issues have not been resolved," the hotel maintenance worker said.
Taisacan is eager to go back to work, but Guam's tourism and hotel industry are still closed.
"It's my first time to apply for food stamp because almost all my life, I work – I work hard so I don't have to rely on government assistance. I didn't have a choice this time. I can't go back to work," she said.
She said if she can talk directly to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, she would ask her to "please help us" by speeding up the processing of unemployment aid application and payments.
As of Friday morning, 27,190 Guam workers lost their job, got furloughed or got work hour reductions as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is based on the reporting of 1,508 employers via hireguam.com, according to Labor special project coordinator Hannah Cho.
Of the total number of displaced workers now in the system, 16,396 have so far filed an initial unemployment claim, but a big percentage of that contains errors that need to be corrected.
As of Friday, there's no telling when the first round of payments will be.
The U.S. Department of Labor approved the release of an initial $276 million for Guam's rollout of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs.
Guam Labor asked for a $924 million budget, estimating 38,000 workers will be displaced by the pandemic.
On Monday, Guam Labor's in-person application process begins for those who have already made appointments.
No walk-ins will be accepted.
The processing center is open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Guam Community College Building E.
Social distancing guidelines will be enforced. The first two hours will be prioritized for veterans, manåmko’, and persons with disabilities.
Guam Labor will also start a roving PUA processing center in partnership with the Guam Public Library System at various library locations starting Monday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
The library location and schedule are subject to change:
- Dededo – June 15, 22, 25 & 29
- Hagåtña – June 16, 23, 27 & 30
- Merizo – June 17, 23, 27 & 30
- Yona – June 18, 24, & 26
- Agat – June 19, 24, & 26
Appointments are for those who have not created a HireGuam account.
All applicants must have an email address and proper documentation on hand, as they will input their information themselves on the PUA online application.
The appointment call center lines for the PUA main processing center and libraries are 988-3672, 788-0729, and 689-1872.