Confusion over new PUA reduced hours policy; San Nicolas says nothing’s final yet

Congressman Michael San Nicolas addresses the confusion over news that workers who've had their hours cut are no longer eligible for PUA benefits. (PNC photo)

The nation breathed a sigh of relief when the new coronavirus relief bill was finally signed by the president.

But Guam residents who rely on federal pandemic money seemed to get some bad news today.

Congressman Michael San Nicolas, however, says not so fast.

Earlier today, Guam Department of Labor director Dave Del’Isolla announced the next round of PUA won’t apply to workers whose hours have been reduced due to the pandemic.

Dell’Isolla says the change applies across the country because every state has unemployment insurance benefits that workers with reduced hours will be able to utilize.

Today during a press conference, however, Congressman San Nicolas said the announcement was premature.

He said although the announcement is alarming, the law itself has not changed to reflect the information in Del’Isolla’s announcement.

Del’Isolla shared a document that describes the change but San Nicolas said the document likely reflects an administrative interpretation and that doesn’t mean it’s been finalized.

San Nicolas said he’d be surprised if such an interpretation sticks, especially since it contradicts both the letter and the spirit of the law.

San Nicolas said if the current administration insists on sticking with this interpretation, he’s confident it won’t last long, and that right now the most important thing for the island to do is to not panic.

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“I believe that over the next 24 hours we’re going to see greater clarity..and if we don’t, if this turns out to be something that this administration is going to hold onto in its final eight days..I am very confident that we’re going to see a reversal of this with the new administration,” San Nicolas said.

He added: “So again, I want to urge the public..I want to urge any impacted workers..document your circumstances..and give us time to be able to make sure this works out the right way, and we should be able to have you made whole when everything comes full circle.”

San Nicolas said his office will seek clarification on the matter and update the island tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Governor Lou Leon Guerrero issued a statement saying that the latest relief package was a hard-fought compromise that left each side believing more can
be done.

She says the administration is working to be sure that Guam isn’t left behind and that they can improve on the things the current package fell short.