Agreement on jobless benefits signed; but details still being worked out

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At today's coronavirus news conference, held remotely over the internet as usual, GovGuam officials said an agreement has been signed and unemployment benefits may soon be available. But they could not yet say for sure when the first jobless benefits will be paid out.

As we all settle into the second week of a virtual islandwide shut down caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the number of unemployed is growing along with calls for relief.

At Monday’s coronavirus news conference, held remotely over the internet, as usual, GovGuam officials said an agreement has been signed and unemployment benefits may soon be available.

But they could not yet say for sure when the first jobless benefits will be paid out.

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It’s not clear yet how much money will be paid out weekly to those who have been laid off as a result of the coronavirus shutdown.

CNMI congressman Kilili Sablan, over the weekend, announced that it would be $960 a week. Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas last week said it would be $930 a week. Today, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said the weekly benefit amount has not yet been set.

“There is no definite number yet as to how much they are going to be getting. They’re looking at the average unemployment benefits and then there is a clarification of whether additional benefits would apply for Guam,” the governor said.

Just yesterday, the governor signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the jobless benefits provided in the coronavirus relief act signed by President Trump Saturday.

Guam Department of Labor Director Dave Dell’Isola and GEDA Deputy Director Ricky Hernandez is working on implementing it

“In terms of how those are going to be paid out, we are waiting for guidance from the Department of Labor and once that guidance comes our way, obviously we will go ahead and ensure that we do everything we can locally to get those checks out,” Hernandez said.

Although the dollar amount of the weekly unemployment check has not yet been finalized, Dell’Isola said the benefits will last 39 weeks. The benefit program is retroactive and will apply to anyone laid off from January 27th or later. It remains in effect to the end of the year.

“The amount will be given to us by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is not something that is negotiated or something that we ask for. Those guidances are working, and they are coming up with additional guideless as we speak and they are informing us as soon as these things are produced,” Dell’Isola said.

To date, Dell’Isola said Guam employers report 2,400 Guam workers have been laid off or furloughed, with another 1,300 whose hours or salaries have been cut. And that does not yet include the number of laid-off workers from the hotels

“It’s very important for all employers to report these numbers to us when we get the system up because this will assist us in asking for relief monies,” the governor said.

The governor also announced that a mandatory 14-day quarantine will take effect at midnight tonight for all arriving travelers on Guam, whether they come by sea or by air.

The mandatory 2-week quarantine applies to all travelers regardless of place of origin and includes passengers that may be in transit.

The only exception will be travelers who have a verifiable healthcare certificate confirming they have been tested within 72 hours of arrival and they are free of the coronavirus.

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