NMI moving along with stimulus monies
The Northern Mariana Islands has release 29,000 economic stimulus payments totaling $45 million, against $47.1 million approved by the U.S. Treasury.
The Division of Revenue & Taxation has been releasing payments every Friday. These have been garnished for child support and include payments for dependents. “We have reached our limit if we include those who are pending,” said Tracy B. Norita, director of the division, speaking at the June 1 news conference of Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres.
The NMI has received additional PPEs and is expecting additional equipment from California for the alternative care site at the Kanoa Resort. The NMI has asked for thermal scanners for entry points and other critical areas like hotels.
Patrick Guerrero, the governor’s representative on the COVID-19 task force told the Journal that the NMI had about 30 days left under its emergency procurement status for quarantine rooms at the Kanoa Resort and Pacific Islands Club Saipan. “We can terminate at our convenience,” he said. Department of Public Safety staff such as the Fire division were among agencies with personnel at the hotel, Guerrero said.
As of June 1, there were 308 individuals quarantined at PIC and 224 at Kanoa Resort. “We have not maxed both facilities,” he said. While the latest United Airlines flight from Guam had 60 passengers, the airline could go as high as 160, Guerrero said, so there was a need to maintain the rooms. Otherwise he said, “Procurement is very minimal and reduced with the government opening.” That eliminated the needs for meals for most personnel, he said.
As of May 31, the NMI had tested 5,609 people in Saipan, 349 in Tinian and 376 in Rota.
Torres told the Journal that NMI restaurants will open slowly – with a 25% occupancy. “Opening up at 50% [occupancy] is not the right way to do it,” he said. Some restaurants would find it tough to make a profit at 25%, the Journal was told.
That 50% will occur when the NMI moves to “blue” on its color grading system. It is currently in yellow.
As to the aim to open on July 15, the governor said, “We’re trying to make it as seamless as possible.”
In her June 1 press conference, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero announced the Guam Department of Labor’s online portal to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits is online.
Guam DOL Director David Del’Isolla requested patience from the public as DOL works out bugs and glitches as the program is implemented.
“I’m nervously happy to say that the program went live on Saturday morning,” Del’Isolla said. “I wanted to do this quietly so that we could test the system and its integrity.
A lot of people had been checking the website regularly, however, and since going live Del’Isolla said more than 4,000 claims were initiated. More than 1,100 employers registered their employees, totaling more than 22,000 employees in the system. Although employers must register their employees in the system, employees must file for claims themselves.
People filing for claims under PUA and FPUC must certify their income on a weekly basis.
“The word ‘unemployment’ in the [website] means the time you were affected,” Del’Isolla said. “It could be the time you were reduced in hours, laid-off or furloughed. You may still be working but reduced. That time you were reduced is the time you were ‘unemployed.’”
Individuals who were laid off and not rehired by their former employers must apply for a job with at least three employers upon declaration of Pandemic Condition of Readiness 3.
Guam Community College is working with DOL to stand up a processing, call-in and hotline center. DOL is also working with the Department of Administration to handle payments.
Payments may be received either through paper checks or direct deposit. Personnel will also be available to assist individuals with their applications through phone.
FSM extends public emergency
President David W. Panuelo extended the Federated States of Micronesia’s public health emergency until July 31.
Social distancing has been introduced and the May 30 Congressional Resolution on the extension also calls for repatriation of FSM citizens residents and diplomats.
Travel is discouraged out of the FSM, and individuals returning may be quarantined according to a June 1 release. Up to $700,000 has been allocated for “… mitigation of costs for people affected …,” according to the release.
OPA presses on with audits
The Office of Public Accountability has released audits on the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, the Government of Guam’s Public Safety overtime and the Guam Economic Development Authority.
The Guam Fire Department, the Guam Police Department and the Department of Corrections accounted for 84%, or an average of $8.2 million a year (or $40.8 million cumulatively) of general fund overtime expenditures in five years from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2019. The fire department averaged $9.7 million a year (or $48.4 million cumulatively) of overtime expenditures during that period.