San Nicolas working to ensure workers with reduced hours remain eligible for PUC

Guam Congressman Michael San Nicolas (PNC file photo)

As workers with reduced hours stress over recent announcements from the Guam Department of Labor that they are now ineligible to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Congressman San Nicolas has engaged the issue from multiple fronts.

“The extension of PUA in December did not change the law regarding eligibility, so no one eligible to receive should be getting cut off. My office has verified on official resources that California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington are still accepting partial PUA applications, and we understand the CNMI is as well,” Congressman San Nicolas stated in a news release.

He added: “We have confirmed that the statute is unchanged and Guam’s cutoff is inconsistent with the law, and as an abundance of caution we have further notified the Biden Administration and the Democratic Caucus of these circumstances.”

While States, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico have local Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs in addition to PUA, many of them require a certain period of participation by employees in order for them to qualify.

“During the period of the CARES ACT many businesses shut down and subsequently re-opened with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, only to find themselves reducing operations and worker hours when loan resources dried up,” San Nicolas said.

He added: “These businesses that hired new workers and reduced their hours would have a workforce likely ineligible for local UI and dependent on federal PUA. If these workers were being cut off anywhere else in the country there would be public uproar, and the fact that there is none underscores our concern that the Guam cutoff is not the reality anywhere else, and the Director of Guam DOL has not been able to verify otherwise.”

Out of an abundance of caution, San Nicolas said he has secured a cross-section of Members of Congress from across the country to have the Biden administration review the program to make sure it is being applied fairly and not cutting off anyone.

“We have transmitted a letter to the Biden Administration with support from Members in the CNMI, California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas — a cross-section of the entire country — to review the information being relayed by the Guam Department of Labor from the U.S. Department of Labor to make sure that what is happening on Guam is clarified, so that the intent of the law to support workers and our economy is properly implemented,” San Nicolas said.

He added: “We will continue to employ every avenue necessary to ensure that the Guam PUA cutoff which is against statute does not stand.”