Editor's note: This is the seventh 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.

Jayvon Esegiulpiy, 37, was laid off from Real World Diving in March, just two months after the business hired him as a bus driver.

Prior to that, he had worked for five years as a bus driver at Alupang Beach Club, he said.

Fast forward to this week. Esegiulpiy is now a full-time employee at Guam Memorial Hospital as a temporary certified nursing assistant.

"It breaks my heart to see people suffering from COVID-19," he said. "Seeing the work that doctors and nurses do, going through this unprecedented time, I wanted to help, too, and be there for the community."

His journey from bus driver, to unemployed, and now a full-time hospital employee wasn't easy.

The COVID-19 pandemic's travel restrictions shut down Guam tourism and displaced some 30,000 workers such as Esegiulpiy.

But the father of three said he was determined to find a job and provide for his family.

He said he's been aware that the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program ends after 39 weeks.

"I applied for a job at Pay-Less, at Kmart. I didn't receive a call from them," he said. "I saw something at The Guam Daily Post about (the Guam Department of Labor) looking for people to hire for a COVID-19 cleanup program."

The Dislocated Worker Program, administered by GDOL, provides temporary employment to those who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic. It also provides workers an opportunity to learn new skill sets.

Esegiulpiy immediately applied for the program and is thankful for being hired.

"When I saw the opportunity, I took it," he said.

'I was scared, too. But I went through training'

As part of the temporary COVID-19 maintenance and housekeeping team at GMH, he was cleaning and sanitizing the homeless shelter in Maite in the middle of the pandemic.

In his heart and mind, he said, he's doing his part to help contain the pandemic.

"But I have a lot of family and friends trying to discourage me from doing this," he said. "They are scared of being around me. They thought because I work at the hospital, I could be carrying it and they could get it from me. They discourage me, scared to be around me, but I love my job."

Esegiulpiy said all he can do is share with them the training he and others in the Dislocated Worker Program had to go through, to keep them and their families safe.

"I was scared, too. But I went through training. I feel much safer at GMH than any other place," he said.

He held on to his temporary job.

Encouraging others

Later on, Esegiulpiy learned about the University of Guam's temporary certified nursing assistant program that provides 32-hour online training and 16-hour skills training at GMH and other facilities for people wanting to be part of efforts to stop COVID-19.

GMH hired him as a full-time employee starting this week, he said, after completing the temporary CNA program. The temporary certification is for nursing assistants and is valid only during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I encourage my friends, former co-workers and family members to not be discouraged looking for a job. You cannot just rely on PUA. It will end soon," he said. "Take every job opportunity."

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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