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Guam: 2,400 workers displaced; 1,300 with reduced hours

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The process is underway to get financial assistance to the thousands of people whose jobs have been impacted in Guam by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A government of Guam mobile command post is stationed outside the Days Inn Hotel in Tamuning on Sunday.  Photo by David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

“Congress just passed the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which is really geared more towards this pandemic and is a totally new stood up program and is being written as we speak,” said David Dell’Isola, Guam Department of Labor Director. “In order for Guam to take advantage of the program, we needed to have an agreement with USDOL secretary in place.”

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed the agreement on Sunday.

The unemployment benefits program will be funded under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that’s part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.

Guam DOL is seeing a growing number of people who have either been laid off, furloughed or had their hours at work reduced.

“The numbers are growing exponentially every couple days. Just a couple days ago, it was at 600. I expect it to grow even more as time goes on with this quarantine.”

As of Monday morning, those numbers included 2,400 workers who had been displaced and about 1,300 others who had their hours at work cut.

Dell’Isola said these numbers, so far, do not include workers from Guam’s hotel and restaurant industry.

Mary Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association said last week that they’re tracking nearly 3,000 employees from various local businesses who’ve been affected by the threat of Covid-19 that has reduced tourism numbers, and the government’s shut down. Of those numbers, there are several hundred who have been laid off, she added.

According to the newly signed federal law, the unemployment insurance assistance will cover those affected between Jan. 27 to Dec. 31 of this year. Additionally, it will be retroactive to the date of the employee’s separation or the date that their employment was impacted.

The Labor director said the program calls for a 39-week duration of assistance for those who qualify.

The amount that Guam will receive has not yet been disclosed by the federal government.

“That is something that will be given to us and that will be a set amount given to all people regardless of how much they made or how little they made,” he said. “They understand the uniqueness of Guam not having an unemployment insurance program and they know the challenges of implementing this program when there is a quarantine. All they were able to tell me is that our regional office will be in place to help us stand it up and administer this program.”

He said he is working with Chief Economist Gary Hiles and Guam Economic Development Authority Deputy Administrator Ricky Hernandez to develop the process to help those in need.

“It’ll be for all those unemployed in regards to the Covid-19…if it was because of Covid, then you are qualified,” he said.

“I hear those people that are hurting and I am trying to go as quickly as possible. Have patience…This is going to be a different program to stand up while keeping the employees protected from the spread and keeping my staff protected, as we figure out a way to accept the application process. We are doing the best that we can.”

The governor’s executive order requires all employers to report all changes to their employment numbers or status to Guam DOL.

His agency has spent the past week receiving nearly 1,000 emails at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and taking questions about the anticipated financial relief.

“I really can’t ask enough for all employers — how best can you help your employees? By giving us what your status is, how many people are you furloughing, laying off or reducing and keep giving us that number because that will help us ask for more money for the federal side so that we can get this assistance our to their employees.”

Employees affected are asked to secure a dated letter from their employer of their furlough or layoff to provide to Guam DOL.

“I need to have that in order to verify your assistance and when to start it. Then, when you go back to work eventually down the road, you will need that to stop the assistance. These are federal monies, so we have to be very careful about making sure that we are very judicious with our bookkeeping and validation,” he said.

He said the Joint Information Center is in the process of setting up a hotline number, as well, to take any labor related questions from the community.

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