GDOL re-batching latest claims after suspected fraud; LWA $300 top-up in final testing stage

GDOL PUA processing center (PNC file photo)

The Guam Department of Labor says it needs to re-batch its latest unemployment batch after discrepancies in the final payout numbers.

David Dell’Isola, the GDOL director, told PNC News that the vendor submitted their list this Tuesday morning to the department. However, the total dollar amount was higher than anticipated. Dell’Isola says he believes they are having a repeat incident from the last batch two weeks ago, where the vendor batched more days than they’re supposed to.

Today’s batch was supposed to cover clean claims up to and including August 27.

However, Dell’Isola believes a few more days may have been included, which are claims GDOL did not fully vet and clean up. With fraud now making up 90% of daily new claims, Dell’Isola says there’s no room for error.

The GDOL director says he’s authorized the vendor to work overtime to re-batch the claims. He’ll find out later what the new total is.

Dell’Isola says the re-batching should not delay the payout timeline which could be as early as this weekend, more likely early next week.

GDOL is now on a two-week schedule for batching and payouts, with Dell’Isola saying that mimics a typical pay cycle in the labor force. He said this gives staff the time to concentrate on the enormous amounts of fraud still bombarding the department.

As for the additional $300 payments in Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) for qualifying residents, Dell’Isola says the department is in the testing phase of the program and is, “running it through the wringer.”

“What the final thing I think we need to do is…we need to do a big powwow with the programers and come up with a method that we’re comfortable will ensure we remove as much fraud as possible. We’re trying to see if we can do a pre-run of that payment separately, because it is tied into the PUA, so we’re trying to see if they can run that batch separately for the first three weeks,” said Dell’Isola in an interview with Newstalk K57.

He says once the pre-run is complete, the department will take the file and go through it manually to ensure no bogus claims actually got in. Once that’s done, they’ll re-send the file to the vendor for finalization and payout.

GovGuam is on the hook for all overpayments/fraudulent payments under the terms of LWA, which will mean coughing up the cash if any fraud does get paid out.

The department is hoping to make the LWA payments in two batches — the first covering weeks 1-3 and the other for weeks 4-6.

Weeks 1-3 cover July 26-August 15; weeks 4-6 cover August 15-September 5.

Residents do not have to apply for this additional money. Anyone who made more than $100 in PUA benefits during these timeframes will automatically qualify for the payments. 

This $100-or-more cut-off eliminates many people who initially received the FPUC top-up, since under that program, residents only had to make $1 in PUA money to get the full $600.

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Since the first three weeks cover the time before the island went into a second PCOR 1 shutdown, Dell’Isola says there will be fewer claimants in that batch, as more people returned to work during PCOR 3.

However, weeks 4-6 begin literally the same day the island locked down on August 16, meaning a big uptick in claimants who were laid off, reduced, or furloughed at their workplaces due to the business shutdown.

Overall, Dell’Isola says he expects around 20,000 claimants on island to benefit from the LWA payments.

Dell’Isola also says their department is currently going through three audits: one each with the Office of the Public Auditor, FEMA and with the USDOL Office of the Inspector General.