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The Palau government will assist thousands of foreign workers affected by the global lockdown.

President Tommy Remengesau Jr. in a press conference on Wednesday said that the non-citizens in the country are an integral part of the economy and that they will continue access to healthcare, and jobs during the pandemic.

“When it comes to the health of the nation, there is no non -citizen or citizen, everybody is a concern of the government, to make sure that not one single coronavirus is inflicted on anyone in Palau or coming to Palau. Remengesau said in a press conference.

Health care will be applied to all at the same time that assistance includes making sure that foreign workers are also employed.

When it comes to the health of the economy, Remengesau said the government wants to limit unemployment both in public and private sectors and help non-citizens keep their jobs in times of the pandemic.

“Employment is a must; we don’t want to see people living on the streets or no place to stay only because the businesses have closed. We want to maintain that level. We are not in the business of making sure that companies make a profit. I think everyone recognizes that these are tough times.”

He said under the law, the employers that employ foreign workers have a contractual obligation to make sure that their employee’s meals and health care are taken care of.

The president said there is also a challenge in sending non-citizens home to their countries due to border closures.

He said as a host country to many foreign workers, there is a need to “really employ the Palauan culture of looking out for each other, whether you are a citizen or a non-citizen.”

Finance Minister Elbuchel Sadang said the assistance will be contained in the economic measures or legislation that will be needing approval from Congress.

In the measures, it is proposed that employers can apply for loan programs to maintain employees.  It will also propose subsidies for social security contributions for employees.

“We will propose that social security contribution not to be deducted from the paycheck,” Sadang said.   If it’s not enough, Sadang said non-citizens can also apply for water and power subsidies.  Sadang said the government will deal with employers but not individual employees.

He said the government will draft criteria to make sure employers continue to pay their employees as a condition of getting help.

According to a March 31 economic assessment of the US Graduate School, job loss for foreign workers  “is much larger” with a reduction in employment of 2,100 jobs or 35 percent of foreigners employed.

Palau depends on thousands of foreign workers to fill jobs in construction, domestic help, hotel and restaurant sectors.

Employment subsidies provided through WIOA from the United States government apply only to citizens of the Freely Associated States (Palau, FSM, and RMI) and citizens of the United States.  Foreign workers from other countries whose employment was impacted by COVID-19 will be assisted through the above-mentioned assistance from Palau national government.