Reduced-hour workers can now file PUA claims

LABOR: A number of instruction signs are posted outside the entrance to the Guam Department of Labor office along with chairs for people to line up, as seen Monday in the GCIC building in Hagåtña. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Guam workers on reduced hours can now start filing their weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims, Guam Department of Labor Director David Dell'Isola said on Monday.

This comes days after the U.S. Department of Labor added three new sets of criteria for PUA eligibility, and stated that reduced-hour workers are eligible for accumulated retroactive PUA payments.

Mari Balilo, a single mother of two still earning only about $300 a week, said the ability to file for and receive PUA once again feels like a heavy load has been lifted off her shoulders.

"I'm very thankful," she said. "It's really going to help me and my kids."

With the public health emergency still affecting businesses, her work hours are still below the regular 40 hours a week.

At times, she works about 25 hours a week. Other times, about 30 hours.

What Balilo earns in a week is much less than the $645 a week received by those who are not working at all during the pandemic. The fully unemployed receive PUA and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, so those on reduced work hours who were taken off the PUA eligibility list had called for fairness.

"As a single mom of two and with only one income, I will be able to pay my bills and debts on time now," Balilo said, once she starts receiving PUA once again.

The last time Guam's reduced-hour workers were able to file for PUA was on Dec. 27.

When PUA was extended in late December through mid-March 2021, USDOL said they were not eligible for PUA.

Many on reduced work hours will just have to continue filing their PUA claim from where they left off.

"They can file for reduced hours as if it was always allowed," Dell'Isola said.

The Guam Department of Labor issued a three-page information sheet about the new PUA eligibility criteria.

How to do it

GDOL said those who wish to immediately file for weeks with reduced hours should select "Other reason not listed here" on the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Information section on hireguam.com.

They should make sure to report any earnings, and to upload check stubs as soon as possible.

"Missing check stubs may cause delays or cause claim holds to be generated," GDOL said.

For initial claims, the claimant should also select "Other reason not listed here" and type in: "I am an employee and my hours have been reduced or I was laid off as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency."

GDOL's hireguam.com system is being modified to show the new criteria.

The changes could take effect sometime in mid- to late March.

In the meantime, GDOL advises reduced-hour workers to select "Other reason not listed here" when filing their PUA claim.

Besides reduced-hour workers, there are two other groups added to the PUA eligibility list involving those who refuse to return to a work environment that is not safe or accept an offer of new work that is unsafe, as well as certain individuals providing services to educational institutions or agencies.

GDOL said the guidance on these two other criteria will follow suit, as it more closely analyzes the new guidance. The best number to call for PUA questions and concerns remains 311 option 6.

Meanwhile, GDOL anticipates its latest batching of claims today, and claimants can expect payments a few days later.

More than 30,000 pandemic-displaced workers in the private sector received PUA, FPUC and Lost Wages Assistance in 2020.

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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