Up to 40,000 residents may need COVID-19 unemployment assistance

GDOL Director David Dell'Isola says that the weekly unemployment benefit will be $945 and that the agency is waiting for guidance from the federal government before they can proceed with the program.

Almost 20 percent of the island’s total population may need financial assistance because of COVID-19, according to the latest estimates from the Guam Department of Labor.

About 30,000 to 40,000 on the island are anticipated to need pandemic unemployment assistance due to the economic impact of COVID-19, according to Guam Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola.

“If you step back and look at it logically, we have in the private sector close to 50,000 workers. Right now, the only things that are open are a few banks, grocery stores, hardware stores, and a few restaurants that are doing takeout. So, how many people out of the 50,000 do you think are working?” Dell’Isola said.

Excluding data from the hotels, Dell’Isola says that currently around 6,300 workers have been laid off or furloughed and 5,100 employees have had their hours reduced.

The federally funded pandemic employment assistance program would relieve workers who have been displaced or have had their hours cut because of COVID-19. But because Guam does not have a local unemployment benefits program, this relief may not be available to residents immediately.

GovGuam would have to create its own program, which would have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. Dell’Isola says that he is still waiting for further guidance from USDOL on how to proceed, including the exact amount of weekly payments. He acknowledges the long and difficult road ahead.

“It’s gonna be 30,000 to 40,000 thousand people trying to accept applications in a shelter in place quarantine with all of the demographics we have. Some are tech-savvy, some don’t even know how to read an application, and everything in between trying to make sure that they stay safe and don’t spread the disease and making sure that the people I bring on stay safe and don’t spread it. That’s the task I have,” Dell’Isola said.