GDOL: Reduced-hour employees have reason to hope for PUA inclusion

GDOL PUA processing center (PNC file photo)

The question of whether employees with reduced hours will receive federal unemployment benefits is still up in the air.

But Guam Department of Labor director Dave Dell’Isola says there’s some reason to hope.

Dell’Isola told Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo this morning that the question of whether his original interpretation of the rule was correct has been answered.

As Dell’Isola had said before, employees with reduced hours are currently not authorized to get PUA.

It turns out this was the case even under the CARES Act.

He said that rule was buried under other guidance and many other districts incorrectly paid PUA benefits to reduced-hour employees as well.

The U.S. Department of Labor understood the mistake was widespread.

So far, U.S. DOL has simply re-emphasized the rule to jurisdictions across the country.

There are currently no signs of punitive measures or attempts to seek reimbursements.

As to Guam’s situation, Dell’Isola said even though his federal counterparts appreciate how damaging it is to Guam, DOL lawyers said there’s no way around it.

Dell’Isola said, however, that there are two fixes.

One, Congress can amend the relief bill.

He said a previous version of the bill had language to pay benefits to reduced-hour workers but it was likely taken out for political reasons.

Now that Democrats control Congress, an amendment is a real possibility.

The other fix is to have the Secretary of Labor change the eligibility criteria since the bill gives the Secretary the power to do so.

Dell’Isola said he’s working on the language for such a change but there is currently no Secretary of Labor.

He has to wait for President Joe Biden’s nominee, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, to be confirmed.

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Dave Dell’Isola, GDOL director, said: “I understand everybody is hurting. This is not something I take lightly. I’m losing sleep over this..trying to work and fix this within the powers I have. I’m working with the governor’s legal team and we’re trying to figure out what’s the smartest and best approach to get this rectified. And between all the other stuff that we’re doing to get this program up, I am making this my priority.”

As far as other pandemic relief benefits, Dell’Isola said Guam DOL is going back to paying every other Tuesday.

Next Tuesday, LWA, FPUC, and PUA will all be batched and start to go out to Guam residents.