GDOL awaiting answers from feds to move Trump unemployment assistance forward

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GDOL employees work on unemployment claims (PNC file photo)

The Guam Department of Labor is still awaiting answers from the federal government in order to process President Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance program as staffers try to iron out the details of how to dole out the federal program.

David Dell’Isola, the GDOL director, says they still have unanswered questions from the feds which they need cleared up before they can move forward.

“The biggest question is still do we give $300 or $400? The majority of the states are giving $300,” Dell’Isola said.

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LWA was launched as a $400 a week program for 3 weeks but FEMA would only cover 75% and Guam would be on the hook for 25%.

Dell’Isola says that since most states already have an existing unemployment program (long before the COVID-pandemic), they’re just using those funds already being paid out to offset their cost-share obligation for the program.

But Guam doesn’t have a pre-existing UI program and the only money being doled out is through PUA payments.

“So they’re trying to come up with options for us, to wave it…or not. Maybe so… or defer it. I’ve been saying ‘you need to let me know what the path forward is here,'” Dell’Isola said.

And that’s not the only hang up.

Dell’Isola says as it stands, 90% of the new claims on island being filed everyday are fraudulent and only 10% are clean local claims, meaning how they roll out the LWA program is crucial to preventing bogus payouts.

“We’re still trying to figure out whether we do it with the system or whether we do it manually. Because I’m afraid of the fraud…and if we do it through the system and we don’t catch all that fraud…the last thing I want to do at the end of this program is say ‘here Governor, you have to pay back $4 million to FEMA…[from local funds],'” Dell’Isola said.

Unlike the previous round of PUA and FPUC, this LWA program actually has local governments on the hook for any fraud that’s paid out.

“As soon as I get the answers, I’m going to sit down with the Governor and with the money people, Lester (Carlson from BBMR) and DOA, Edward Birns, and we’re going to figure out what’s the best way to try to get this money out,” Dell’Isola said.

In other unemployment news, Dell’Isola says they’re setting up their appeals and overpayments process for around 200 people so far who are either appealing their denial of benefits or were overpaid and fighting to keep the money.

The appeals process will be set up at the Civil Service office in the Bell Tower building (where American Job Center is located). There will also be a virtual option for people to ZOOM in.

Dell’Isola says the hearings will begin on October 13 and will all be pre-scheduled.

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Mai Habib
Mai Habib is a radio and television broadcaster and journalist originally from Toronto, Canada. She worked at CTV News and CFRA in Canada for over 5-years, where she was a reporter, anchor and show host. After a brief stop in Canadian politics and the non-profit world, she's happy to be back at the news desk on Guam. Mai is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program and completed her Master's in International Affairs and Public Policy at Carleton University. She is excited to be reporting on Guam's current affairs, legislature and other topical issues.