San Nicolas, Lee clash over employer unemployment registration

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Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas has sent a letter to Guam Senator Regine Biscoe Lee urging legislative action to require all Guam businesses to submit to the Guam Department of Labor the number of employees they have laid off since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“The Legislature MUST ACT to mandate that every business register their pandemic unemployment circumstances with the Guam Department of Labor,” writes San Nicolas.

He maintains that a law requiring employers to submit the number of people they have laid off, that includes “clearly delineated fines and penalties will enhance the consequences of non-compliance and afford employees recourse in the Courts.”

The letter was sent to Sen. Lee because she chairs the Committee on Labor.

San Nicolas writes that this is his “third correspondence to the Legislature on this issue.”

In a news release about his letter to Sen. Lee the Congressman states that as few as “20% of all (Guam) businesses may have registered” the number of people they have laid off even though “70% of Guam businesses got PPP SBA loans due to business distress from the pandemic.”

“With one of the only fully federally funded unemployment programs in the country, every dollar we fail to rightfully get to eligible workers is a dollar lost in their recovery and a dollar lost in the islands recovery,” concluded the Congressman.

In response, Sen. Lee wrote back to the Congressman saying:

“While public service indeed calls for “our local government to address impediments” that unfairly limit access to needed and entitled economic aid, it is also important for leaders like ourselves to seek clarification and understanding on these complex issues—and not share misinformation that could spread needless fear and panic.

“To be absolutely clear: any assertion that an employer’s enrollment on hireguam.com is “required” for a successful unemployment application is wrong, plain and simple.”

“The Guam Department of Labor (GDOL) has repeatedly clarified in countless media interviews, and most recently at an oversight hearing called by the 35th Guam Legislature, that a business’ failure to register on the employer module will not disqualify any employee from receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). An employer’s failure to provide a verification letter or other supporting documents to a former employee will not disqualify the displaced worker from receiving this relief either.”

Read the news release from Congressman San Nicolas in Full below:

Congressman seeks for the third time a legislative mandate for businesses to register unemployment.

In this latest correspondence, this time sent directly to Labor Chair Regine Biscoe-Lee, Congressman San Nicolas showcases how as little as 20% of all businesses may have registered unemployment rolls, and further provides samples of direct constituent messages from workers unable to get their employers cooperation to register their unemployment rolls or provide them with unemployment certification.

“The numbers are clear and the ramifications stark, the more difficult it is for affected workers to get unemployment relief the worse their quality of life suffers, and the longer we delay Guam’s economic recovery,” opened Congressman San Nicolas.

“70% of Guam businesses got PPP SBA loans due to business distress from the pandemic, yet only 20% of all businesses have registered their unemployment rolls; while there may be some variance between the two it should not be as wide, indicating that many workers could be left out of much needed unemployment relief during these times,” Congressman San Nicolas continued.

“With one of the only fully federally funded unemployment programs in the country, every dollar we fail to rightfully get to eligible workers is a dollar lost in their recovery and a dollar lost in the islands recovery, and with tourism revenues strained in the foreseeable future our entire community needs us to make the most of all of these opportunities we were able to secure in the Congress,” Congressman San Nicolas concludes.