HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — A person on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance made more money than if they were working a full-time job, Guam Department of Labor Director David Dell'Isola told senators at a Wednesday hearing on the relief program that has so far paid $805 million directly to more than 30,000 claimants since March 2020.
Dell'Isola tried to put in perspective the impact of PUA, as well as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, on each claimant and their family, and to the economy.
PUA is the single largest federal pandemic relief program for Guam, with an authorized budget of $1.06 billion.
It kept thousands of families from hunger, homelessness and deeper financial ruin.
If a person was a PUA recipient from March 15, 2020 to Sept. 4, 2021 the PUA eligibility period, then that person would have received about $48,675 per annum or $16.23 an hour, Dell'Isola told Sen. Sabina Perez, chairwoman of the Guam Legislature's Committee on Labor, and other senators.
If a person was fully employed at the time and making $8.75 an hour, then that person would have been making almost $27,000 a year, he said.
A person fully employed making $12 an hour would have earned a salary of $36,960 per annum for that same period, Dell'Isola said.
"So the average PUA participant was making more than the typical person would make if they were working full time. I just want to make sure that you guys understand that, how much assistance the average person was getting and what does that equate to what they normally would have gotten if they worked full-time hours," Dell'Isola told senators. "I'm not making any statement other than pointing out what the fact is."
What workers make on Guam
PUA and FPUC reached as high as $945 a week in the beginning, and then up to $645 a week and $300 a week.
Besides PUA and FPUC, the claimants also received Lost Wages Assistance for a number of weeks.
Based on latest Guam Department of Labor data on industry average hourly wages, retail workers are paid an average of $11.82 an hour while those in the service industry make an average of $10.37 an hour.
For "all private sector," the average pay is $16.06 an hour, Dell'Isola said.
Overall, the PUA program served 30,856 claimants on Guam.
More than 11,000 of them were unemployed for more than 61 weeks or up to 70 weeks, Dell'Isola said.
Senators also received the following data:
• Total PUA appeals filed as of September 2021: 1,250, of which 66% were heard and 34% are ongoing.
• PUA overpayments as of September 2021 were at $6.952 million-plus, of which $2.3 million has so far been recovered and $1.57 million so far has been waived.
• Oct. 27, 2021 is the last day to accept a weekly PUA claim online.
• March 31, 2022 is the last day to satisfy and clear PUA overpayments.
• June 30, 2022 is the PUA administrative closeout.
Dell'Isola credited his staff for making sure $805 million went to claimants, even if GDOL only had a short window to set up the program.
The American Job Center and PUA offices at the Bell Tower in Anigua will all be moving to GDOL's main office at the GCIC Building, Dell'Isola said.
Senator: Pivot to employment
Perez's legislative committee held an informational hearing on GDOL, PUA and workforce development.
The senator also wanted to highlight the resources available to residents seeking jobs and/or training opportunities.
"With Oct. 6, being the deadline for applying for new claims for PUA and continued processing of outstanding claims and appeals, GDOL’s pandemic response must pivot to facilitating employment, workforce development and diversification," Perez said in a statement after the hearing.
Guam Community College President Mary Okada also presented on, and answered questions about, the impact of the pandemic on employment and more importantly, workforce development.
Skills upgrades, retraining
Hundreds of pandemic-hit workers have received, or are receiving, skills upgrades and retraining through GCC, so they can return to the workforce.
GDOL's June 2021 report showed an 11.4% unemployment rate, which translates to 8,000 people, and more than 30,000 who received PUA.
Perez said it is "urgent now more than ever to bring our people back to work."
At the hearing, Dell'Isola said approximately 10,000 jobs were posted on the hireguam.com website.
Senators welcomed the presentation on opportunities for workforce development, including pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs, training boot camps and online tutorials.
At the hearing, Dell’Isola cited the benefits for employers who participate in these programs, such as tax credits and the subsidization of participant wages.
Perez, after the hearing, issued a list of 193 vacancies in the government of Guam, including in the Department of Public Health and Social Services, Guam Department of Education, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, and the Mayors' Council of Guam.