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The bill to provide relief from the economic and social impact of COVID-19, became law yesterday upon signing by President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. It became RPPL 10-56, the CROSS (Coronavirus Relief One-Stop Shop) Act.  The law is a one-time appropriation and authorization of funding and relief measures and will cease on January 31, 2021.

The law appropriates $20 million to address private sector mitigation measures and appropriates $21 million to cover local revenue shortfall funding of the national government budget. Sources of funding include Palau’s General Reserve Fund, Disaster Emergency Response loan from ADB and from other loan to be obtained by Palau government as authorized under RPPL 10-55.

The law authorizes Ministry of Finance to serve as the Coronavirus One-Stop Shop, a central location to qualify employers and employees for the temporary relief benefits.

The temporary relief assistance is only available to qualified employers and employees and to qualify, employers and employees need to apply through the Ministry of Finance.

Minister Elbuchel Sadang said that the regulation is being expedited and necessary forms are also being put together in anticipation of the regulation’s passage.

Some of the temporary relief measures in the law include concessionary or interest free loans to cover employers’ fixed costs or finance improvement of employers’ tourism facilities, deferment of employers’ contributions to Social Security Administration and to the National Health Care Finance Governing Committee as well as unemployment benefits to employees whose employment has been terminated, suspended or reduced due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Ministry of Justice is also authorized to approve temporary employment and transfer of nonresident workers.  PPUC’s Lifeline Utility Service to low income or fixed income households funded by government will be expanded without restrictions currently existing under the regulations.

The law also appropriates $50k each to the non-government organizations, Dolphin’s Pacific, Palau Conservation Society and Ebiil Society but they have to file an application with MOF in order to obtain the funding.

Additional funds are appropriated for private schools and State governments to address COVID-19 preparations.

“With this bill, every service of the government will continue.  There is no unemployment at the national or state and there will be funding for schools, NGOs and the states. It is a very big thing to say we did not close anything due to COVID-19,” stated President Remengesau, signing the bill into law.

“We know that people are struggling and our first priority will be to get direct assistance to the private sector employees in need.  Unfortunately, we must be careful with people’s expectations and I ask you to help me get the word out about our budget constrain.  We are a small country doing everything it can with modest resources,” stated Remengesau.

Minister of Finance Elbuchel Sadang asked for patience as they expedite the required regulations and forms to implement the relief measures.