GDOL says no change in reduced hours rule; San Nicolas proposes pandemic business license

The Guam Legislature on Monday called Guam Department of Labor director Dave Dell’Isola for an informational hearing to learn more about what’s going on with PUA. (PNC photo)

The Guam Legislature on Monday called Guam Department of Labor director Dave Dell’Isola for an informational hearing to learn more about what’s going on with PUA.

After about two hours of listening and prodding with questions, Dell’Isola’s answer didn’t change — there is still no change to guidance on PUA and people with reduced hours do not qualify.

Dell’Isola said that he is continuing to push back against the policy and is awaiting answers to questions he’s posed to his federal counterparts in the U.S. Department of Labor.

He also reiterated the two solutions that he’s proposed: either a change to legislation in Congress or a change to eligibility rules enacted by the Secretary of Labor.

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“I’m sure the Congressman may have other alternatives, or the governor may have some other ones, but those two I vetted through U.S. DOL and they agreed either one could be used. They didn’t say anything about the chances of either one being done. That, I can’t say..speak of. But all I can tell you is, I was trying to figure out what I could think of as possible solutions,” Dell’Isola said.

The U.S. Secretary of Labor position, however, remains vacant as President Biden’s nominee awaits confirmation.

Congressman Michael San Nicolas, who attended the hearing, said he’s also working the issue from his end.

He said he’s communicated with the Biden administration and has received support from members of Congress from other jurisdictions.

He also floated the idea of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero issuing an executive order that splits all businesses into two entities with two separate business licenses — a standard business license and a so-called “pandemic business license.”

He gave the example of Kings Restaurant being declared closed since the pandemic but a “pandemic Kings Restaurant” being considered a separate business that is open.

He suggested this as a way to get around the technical language that disqualifies reduced hour employees for PUA.

Although San Nicolas agreed that both he and Dell’Isola are working to resolve the issue for the good of the island, he still disagrees that the U.S. Department of Labor’s interpretation is sound.

While Dell’Isola considers the issue to be a matter of a policy that needs to be changed either through legislative action in congress or administrative action by the Secretary of Labor, San Nicolas rejects the Department of Labor’s interpretation as invalid.

“The purpose of PUA was never to force businesses to either choose to open up 100% or close down 100%. It was intended in the spirit of the law and in the language, that the PUA funding would be available in order to support economic activity. And to allow for those who are in any way adversely affected by the pandemic to not have their economic circumstances further exacerbate the pandemic consequences that we’re suffering from,” San Nicolas said.

He added: “And so yes, it was intended absolutely to smooth out not only the closure of businesses but as businesses intended to reopen. And that’s why this interpretation that we’re facing on the island is entirely inconsistent with the whole reason why PUA was established to begin with.”