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Finance chief discusses tax refunds, PUA

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SECRETARY of Finance David DLG Atalig on Friday said about 9,600 taxpayers have been paid their tax refunds.

This first batch of tax refund payments were for tax returns that were filed by April 23, he said during a press briefing on KKMP radio.

Finance is now preparing a second batch for approximately $3 million, he said, adding that this is for taxpayers who filed their taxes after April 23.

About 10 days after the second batch is distributed, the department will distribute the third and final batch, he added.

Atalig said the department is now waiting for Super Typhoon Yutu reimbursement monies that are due to come in as early as this week.

“We are going to reserve that money, since I’ve been using money out of the general fund for Covid-19 spending, as well as preparing for getting reimbursements  [for our Covid-19 expenses].”

The Covid-19 reimbursements coming in are already allocated for the expenses of the ongoing Covid-19 mitigation programs, such as the quarantine costs, additional personal protective equipment, and assistance for the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation, he said.

Atalig is expecting reimbursements as early as this week, and will be working closely with the Public Assistance Office, the governor’s authorized representative for the Super Typhoon Yutu disaster, Vicky Villagomez, and the governor’s authorized representative for the Covid-19 disaster, Patrick Guerrero.

“We anticipate another total of about a little over $5 million to clear out our tax refunds for all taxpayers that have filed and are error-free,” he added.

As for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the department is currently working on the Oct. 8, Sept. 29, and Sept. 22 pay dates.

These batches of PUA checks that have been printed are at the CNMI Department of Labor for review because there is a different process when releasing paper checks, Atalig said.

Finance and Labor are working together to try to speed up the process and to revert to direct deposits if a claimant has initially opted for direct deposit.

“There’s a lot more cross-checking and verification when we do paper checks,” Atalig said.

He added that Finance is also working out certain details with  Bank of Guam to discuss a change in payment methods in order to speed up the process and pay claimants quicker.

Atalig said direct deposits were changed to paper checks because of certain banking rules and regulations mandated by the  National Automated Clearing House Association.

Banking laws state that once three errors have been made to any wire transfer transaction, the department’s ability to wire-transfer will be suspended.

“So to minimize…those issues… we [are] converting people back to paper checks. I can’t take the risk of freezing up our ability to do [Automated Clearing House] transfers for other vendor payments that are non-PUA related, including the government payroll.”

Atalig said he will meet with Bank of Guam Monday morning to resolve these issues and ensure that PUA recipients receive their funds as quickly as possible.

“I want to be as transparent as I can for the public and to help our people understand where we’re at in our finances,” he added.

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