PSS official: Furlough is an option, but it may not happen soon

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THE Public School System can furlough its 800 locally funded employees, but it will not happen anytime soon, Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said.

He said he has been receiving emails and calls from teachers and school support staff members inquiring about the furlough.

With no money to pay for PSS’ locally funded employees, Ada said the school system is considering three options: furloughs, payless paydays or layoffs.

“Layoffs will be a mess,” said Ada. “It is not a good idea. We have to give them 90 days and I have to find money to pay them within that time period. It will not help us.”

With payless paydays the commissioner said the employees can keep their jobs, but their scope of work will be adjusted. “If you don’t work, then there’s no pay.”

As for furloughs, Ada said the employees can keep their jobs, but there will be some adjustment to their salary or they can only be paid when there is money available.

The next payday for PSS is on April 10. “I don’t know where we will get the money,” Ada said in a previous interview. “I don’t know how, but I will make sure that they get paid. I will find a way and the [Board of Education] will help me.”

On the previous PSS payday, March 27, the locally funded employees received 70 percent only of their salary.

As of Thursday, a teacher said they had not received the remaining 30 percent of the salary.

Ada said PSS is also two periods behind in paying their vendors and health insurance.

Furloughs may hurt everyone, he added, “but we have to do it — the question is when can we do it?”

Ada said PSS is now banking on funding from the federal government, such as the stimulus package, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and food and nutrition assistance, among other safety nets.

“Once we get a confirmation or assurance that the drawdown is coming our way, then we can plan accordingly,” he added.

He said PSS is not getting money from the CNMI government. “All local funds right now are being diverted to the Covid-19 [operation]. We understand we are in a crisis.”

If PSS will not receive money for its locally funded employees’ salary on Monday, Ada said he will immediately inform them that April 10 will be another payless payday.

PSS federal programs manager Tim Thornburgh earlier said PSS is expected to receive $12.6 million from the $2 trillion stimulus package.

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