Vice Speaker Nelson Calls for Emergency Session to consider unemployment benefit bill

Sen. Telena Nelson (file photo)

Vice-Speaker Telena Nelson is calling for an emergency legislative session to consider her proposal to create unemployment benefits for island residents who may lose their jobs because of the economic impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on our economy.

Bill 313-35 would create an unemployment benefits fund that would provide financial assistance for island residents who may lose their jobs, “”due to no fault of their own and of economic forces beyond the control of their employer,” states the measure’s preamble.

Under the proposed program the maximum unemployment benefit would be “the claimant’s weekly average salary of the previous 90 days, not to exceed $1,500 per month.”

The minimum benefit for each eligible recipient would be $750 per month

In a letter sent to Speaker Tina Muna-Barnes sent on Sunday, Sen. Nelson wrote that “many businesses have begun cutting operating hours and their employees’ working hours in response to the significant loss of visitors to our island.”

If things get worse she warned, we could begin to see some island businesses laying off employees.

Nelson calls on the Speaker to convene an Emergency Session to discuss Bill No. 313-35 which she says “will provide Guam’s workforce and our working families (with) the financial safety net they will need in the event of unprecedented unemployment.”

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero has already declared that she supports Sen. Nelson’s bill to provide unemployment benefits.

When asked about the funding source the Governor told reports last Wednesday that one possible source could be the over $10 million the U.S. Treasury Department has agreed to reimburse GovGuam for the local war claims payments that have been made.

READ the release from the Vice-Speaker in FULL below:

Vice Speaker Nelson Calls for Emergency Session on Bill 313-35
‘Unemployment Benefits Act’ proposes protecting family livelihoods amid COVID-19

(Hagåtña, Guam) – Upon the Governor’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency and amid the island’s readiness efforts in response to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vice Speaker Telena Cruz Nelson has requested that the 35th Guam Legislature go into Emergency Session to discuss her Bill No. 313-35, the “Unemployment Benefits Act of 2020.”

“As our island continues strengthening our response to the threat of COVID-19, we must keep in mind our working families’ ability to sustain themselves in the event of unemployment and during dire circumstances,” said Vice Speaker Telena Cruz Nelson. “While we continue working to safeguard our people’s health and safety, we must also prioritize their livelihoods and ability to continue providing for their families.”

In a letter sent on Sunday to the Speaker of the 35th Guam Legislature, Nelson explained that the island’s private sector, local businesses and tourism industry have already begun experiencing the effects of the pandemic’s threat. Should the threat of the pandemic worsen, the Vice Speaker added, Guam could potentially see businesses and employers begin taking heightened measures that may include the reduction of employees or non-essential staff.

The Unemployment Benefits Act of 2020, introduced by Nelson on March 10, 2020, would create an Unemployment Benefits Fund to provide Guam’s workforce and working families financial assistance in the event of unprecedented unemployment. The bill proposes that, during disasters or public emergencies, eligible claimants receive $750 to $1,500 per month. The Vice Speaker has begun working with the Governor and Chairperson of the Committee on Appropriations and Office of Finance and Budget to identify sources of funding.

“By addressing this measure soon, we could quicker develop the details for the unemployment benefits program and ensure that our island’s employees will have a reliable source of income during any disaster or emergency,” Nelson said. “We will continue working with the Governor and fellow senators to make this potential lifeline a reality for our people and to ensure that our livelihoods and families are protected.”