PUA problems in NMI, help on the way

In a July 1 news conference, the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Labor announced four additional telephone landlines will be set up to assist residents with questions regarding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application process. NMI DOL has also disabled its “call waiting” setting for the phones because it was not operational.

Victoria I. Benavente, secretary of the NMI DOL, said applicants have experienced other setbacks with the online portal, which is https://www.hiremarianas.com.

“Some employers are reporting that all their applicants have been processed and some employers are saying only a few are having problems. And some are saying they’re not getting through at all,” Benavente told the Journal. “So we’re trying to work through all those issues and see if it’s our online portal issue or the employers’ or applicants’ online portal issue — their Internet connection or whatever obstacle is in their way.”

Residents who submitted completed applications will receive the payments in seven to 10 days, according to Benavente. “We are going to work on a Saturday to further work on these applications,” she said.

One reason for the low turnout of approximately 5,000 submitted applications is the Dec. 26 deadline for submission. “Some people are waiting for the rush to be over,” said Benavente.


Wage survey deadline extended; NMC may test employees

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce held its monthly general membership meeting virtually on July 1, which included presentations from Eugene Tebuteb, director of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Labor; Frankie M. Eliptico, interim president of the Northern Marianas College; Jeffrey Deleon Guerrero, finance manager of the Northern Marianas Housing Corp., Matthew Deleon Guerrero, member of the governor’s Economic Advisory Council; and Justin Andrew, director of the NMI Department of Commerce’s Central Statistic Division

The Prevailing Wage Survey — which is a collection of data from NMI businesses, business owners and employees — has an extended deadline for responses to July 10. The NMI DOC will be doing outreach this week to encourage more participation for the survey.

As of press time, 513 companies; 450 employers; 7,728 employees; and 402 occupational titles have been recorded from survey data, according to Andrew.

The survey is available at https://cnmidata.commerce.gov.mp/.

For its fall 2020 semester, NMC has considered required COVID-19 testing for its employees, more training and professional development and classroom spacing to maintain social distancing. According to Eliptico, more than 200 classes and 1,200 students were affected by the campus’ closure.

Eliptico said the college remains responsive to the local workforce’s needs and its workforce certificate programs will not be delayed or cancelled.

In the works are the addition of medical laboratory technician and radiology laboratory technician programs, as well as grants involving apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship via the U.S. DOL. 

The Economic Advisory Council of Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres has continued to discuss how the NMI will adapt to COVID-19 and the tourism reopening, which is set for July 15. Matthew Deleon Guerrero said the council’s goals include developing domestic policy regarding reopening the economy, incentivizing local products, fiscal diversification and tourism product development.

“The council is not necessarily focused on COVID-19,” said Deleon Guerrero.

The council is also compiling data to forecast future growth and hazards or threats to the economy in its reports, which will be submitted to the governor.

Deleon Guerrero said the council is focused on enticing businesses to invest and operate in the NMI as well.

The NMI Housing Corp. is in the process of drafting an action plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for more funds to aid in post-Super Typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu recovery. Grant expenditures must be spent within a 6-year time frame and may be disbursed to the NMI as early as late November.


APL drops shipping rates

Effective July 1, APL is reducing the Fuel Adjustment Factor into Guam and Saipan by 17%. This reduction also applies to export containers from Guam and Saipan to the U.S. mainland.

Reefer or refrigerated containers in and out of Guam and Saipan to the U.S. mainland are also included in the reduction at 14%, according to a July 1 release from APL.


GEDA to offer loans to all

The Guam Economic Development Authority announced June 30 it has 2,091 applications for its small business grants, but still has funding available from the $20 million allocated for economic assistance by the Government of Guam.

No funds have yet been paid out. Funds are due to be paid out by the Guam Department of Administration.

GEDA launched Series 3 of the Guam Small Business Pandemic Assistance Program on June 30, which extends eligibility to small businesses as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Size and Industry Standards, dependent on their industry.

Series 1 prioritized small businesses with under $500,000 annual revenue who had not received assistance under federal loan programs for a period of three weeks. Series 2 extended grant assistance to businesses who earned under $1.5 million, whether or not they were in receipt of proceeds under any federal loan programs for another period of three weeks.

According to the SBA Office of Small Business Advocacy, there were 3,466 small businesses located in Guam in 2018.

According to the 2017 economic census, there were 3,508 businesses on the island.


Star Marianas adds NMI flights

Star Marianas Air restored additional service on the Saipan-Rota route from June 29.

For July, the airline will fly between the two islands six times a week (up from four times), with six flights a week to Tinian, according to routesonline.

Service to Guam remains unavailable, leaving United flights as the link between Guam and Saipan into the Northern Mariana Islands.


Guam COVID numbers move up

As of July 1, Guam added eight cases to its positives count, with the addition of five cases from the U.S. Department of Defense as well as three cases from the island community.

No further information was given on the DoD positives.

As of July 1, Guam had 267 confirmed cases with five deaths, 179 released from isolation, and 83 active cases. Of those cases, 221 are classified as civilians, and 46 are military members.

The Joint Information Center announced four new cases June 30, with two from the 255 tested by drive through in Mangilao, and one from the U.S. military.

Testing will be done in Yigo July 2.


Military exercises continue in Guam

Paratroopers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, United States Army Alaska, parachuted into Andersen Air Force Base the early morning of June 29 as part of their Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

C-17 Globemaster planes dropped the more than 400 paratroopers, according to a June 30 release from Joint Region Marianas. 

For information on upcoming military exercises, see the community events story on www.mbjguam.com.