GDOL requests $924M for unemployment program; phase 2 of module now live

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The Guam Department of Labor announced Monday that phase two of the unemployment portal for Guam is up and running.

The agency is encouraging all employers and business owners who previously registered to complete the additional data requested.

Speaking with K57’s Patti Arroyo on Monday, Guam DOL spokesperson Hannah Cho said employers can now log on to www.hireguam.com, and input specific information for those employees affected by the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

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Previously, employers could only register their businesses, without detailed employee information. 

Guam DOL said employers should click on the banner at the top of the www.hireguam.com home page, that says: “Click Here COVID-19 Employer Login.”

Employers should then click on the maroon button labeled “COVID-19 Employer Login,” and after logging in, they’ll be automatically routed to the page for filling in employee details.

As of noon Monday, the department said 110 Guam employers had entered information for a total of 778 employees.

Cho said employers inputting specific worker details will streamline the payment delivery, once Guam DOL receives federal funds.

Officials have said that all required paperwork has been submitted to the federal government, but U.S. DOL approval has not yet been granted. Cho confirmed Monday that there’s still no finalized agreement with the federal department.

“My Director, David Dell’Isola, is calling them every day, telling them the situation and negotiating timelines and trying to get our program stood-up as quickly as possible,” said Cho.

Despite not having a signed agreement, she said the team at Guam DOL has submitted their budget request anyways, to the tune of $924 million.

She said that amount reflects the department’s latest numbers, which show 38,800 people on Guam have been affected by the pandemic, of which, 13,800 are from the service sector, including hotels.

Cho references the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report “Estimate of Employment Impact of Covid 19 on Guam,” by Chief Economist Gary Hiles.

The report said, “the impact on employment due to the virtual shutdown of tourism is estimated to be an employment equivalent of just over 13,800 positions. This number represents about 28 percent of the private sector employment and 21 percent of total employment on Guam.”

Cho said they’re working hard locally to get systems set up for unemployment payments, however, their hands are tied by the bottleneck in Washington.

“Because we don’t have a traditional unemployment program, it’s taking longer. Other states have had a UI program for 80 years, so they can just tack on this pandemic assistance to their existing infrastructure, whereas, we have to start from scratch. So, they [U.S. DOL] are working with us and they do acknowledge that we’re standing up an 80-year-old program, in just a couple of months.”

There is still no definitive timeline on when Guam will have the federal funds. However, the Governor has previously said it could be the middle of May, or later.

The Guam Department of Labor received confirmation from U.S. DOL in mid-April, that the total weekly amount of unemployment assistance for qualified island residents will be $945 a week for the first 13 weeks.

The benefit then drops down to $345 for another 26 weeks. In all, the unemployment program for eligible residents will run for 39 weeks.

Guam DOL also released an FAQ on Monday: 

The Guam Department of Labor (GDOL) will stand up the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program, and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program that will assist thousands of individuals whose jobs have been impacted by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Here are the answers to common questions by employers about the assistance programs as they pertain to Guam.

Q: What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance? 

A: The Governor signed an agreement with the United States Department of Labor (USDOL), to establish the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in Guam. It is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
The PUA program provides temporary benefits to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of COVID-19. Direct result means loss of employment or self-employment because of a reason directly related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Q: How much are the PUA benefits? 

A: The PUA program, in general, provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits. Guam’s PUA Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) is $345 a week.

Employees who have been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19 qualify for the full amount. Employees still working but making less than $345 a week qualify for PUA minus their wages. Those making $345 or more do not qualify for PUA.

Q: What is Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation? 

A: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is an emergency program designed to increase unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, including Guamanians, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the FPUC, eligible people will get an extra $600 in federal benefits each week from the start of April until July 31, 2020.

An individual is eligible for the full $600 weekly payment if the individual receives one dollar ($1) or more in PUA.

Q: As an employer, what is required of me if I have displaced employees, or workers with reduced wages due to COVID-19? 

Based on Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s Executive Order No. 2020-07, all employers and business owners who have displaced workers are required to register on the labor department’s virtual, one-stop system, hireguam.com.

If you have previously registered and your account is active, you do not need to re-register.Employers and business owners should register by following the steps indicated below:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) FAQ for EMPLOYERS