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NMI seeks waiver of local share requirement in Lost Wages Assistance program

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SECRETARY of Finance David Atalig on Friday said the CNMI cannot afford the local share for the federal Lost Wages Assistance program.

The program makes available a supplemental $400 weekly assistance through December for Americans whose jobs or wages have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the amount, 25% must be provided by the local government; the rest will come from the federal government.

“We are not in a position to match the $100,” Atalig said in a press briefing on KKMP radio. “However, we did submit a request for a waiver of that matching requirement, so we’re waiting to hear back [from the federal government] hopefully sooner [rather] than later, so that we can provide our residents and those unemployed with  additional sources of funds to help them and their families.”

As for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA program, Secretary Atalig said the Department of Finance has released a lot of payments in the form of paper checks.

“A lot of people have converted to the manual check process and not the direct deposit. We are having issues with bank accounts and the transfer of these funds to their accounts, whether it be a routing number or, like I mentioned in the past, [claimants] identifying [an account] as a savings [account], but it’s [actually] a checking account, and so forth,” he said.

To minimize the delays in payments, he said the department decided to just convert everyone that is in those categories to a paper check payment, “which we’re prepared to do,” he added.

Although the department is prepared to move forward with printing these checks, it cannot do so until it receives the “green light” from GeoSolutions, which the Department of Labor has contracted.

He said the department needs data from GeoSolutions in order to print the checks.

“We know which individuals will receive paper checks. We’re just waiting for GeoSolutions to provide us with the manual check register that allows us to print these checks,” he added.

On Friday, he said, the department prepared about 3,000 checks.

“[When] we get that information from GeoSolutions, we will print [the checks] as soon as possible and get those checks in the mail,” Atalig said.

He added that the latest pay date for the most recent batch of checks is Sept. 22.

 

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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