Employees who experienced reduced hours or were laid off temporarily or permanently due to COVID related reasons are eligible again to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the Office of Workforce Innovation & Opportunities Act (WIOA), under the US Continued Assistance Act.

Under the newly issued change from the United States Department of Labor, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE PROGRAM LETTER NO. 16-20, CHANGE 5, the eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was expanded to include persons who experienced reduced working hours or have been laid off from work either temporarily or permanently due to pandemic.

WIOA Director Josephine Ulengchong announced during this week’s press conference that they received a notice of the change from the Department of Labor on February 25, the day following last week’s press conference on February 24, where they discussed the eligibility requirements under Change 4 order.

Under the previous Change 4 definition, eligibility was restricted to those who have been laid off from companies that have been closed down due to Covid related reasons.

Employees of businesses who have been laid off or have severely reduced hours like Palau Pacific Resort are now eligible again to receive the assistance.

For those employees whose hours were reduced, it will depend on the number of hours reduced. According to Director Ulengchong, for employees with reduced hours, they will apply Hawaii’s Employment Service Guidelines. “We fall under Hawaii Employment Service guidelines, which says that if a person works 40 hours a week and the hours are reduced to 32, it is still considered as regular hours,” said Ms. Ulengchong.

Those who did not apply in December due to uncertainty and misinformation can still apply retroactively back to December 6. Claims application must be dated no later than March 12. Claim applications dated after March 12 will not be accepted.

Under the US CARES Act and subsequent Continued Assistance Act of 2021, Palau, along with other Freely Associated States, was included as eligible to receive the assistance under the Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Program. The program since then has awarded $23 million to Palau, with over $14 million already disbursed. The program ends on March 14, 2021.

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