The Palau Visitors Authority’s (PVA’s) Re-employment Program, which found temporary job placements for close to 700 residents who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, is set to end on January 31.

A notice by PVA requested agencies temporarily hosting re-employed workers to submit timesheets for the final work week on January 29, after which payroll checks will be disbursed on February 5.

“We thank the men and women who not only participated, but have exemplified hard work and dedication that have helped make this program a true success,” the notice says.

The program, which was funded by the CROSS Act, is expiring along with the funding from the CROSS Act. The program, which generally targeted those workers who had previously worked in tourism agencies before border closures halted Palau’s tourism industry, paid workers a minimum wage of $3.50 an hour for jobs oriented towards “tourism, environmental protection, and community service”.

The PVA’s statistics as of January 8 show that a total of 679 workers are working in temporary job placements through the program, out of a total of 1,149 submissions. Out of those 679 who are temporarily working, 494 are Palauans and 185 are foreigners.

Others who submitted applications but are not working in temporary job placements either withdrew from the program, found citizen job placements, or transferred permanently to new employers.

The job placements, which were based on skills of the applicants, covered a wide variety of jobs under a variety of agencies, from Rangers and maintenance workers for State Governments, to teacher assistants for the Ministry of Education, to tuna-tagging assistants for the Palau International Coral Reef Center.

The PVA has said that both the new job agencies and the original employers will have the option, but not the obligation, to keep the workers or take the workers back as employees. While the newly sworn-in President Surangel Whipps anticipates that a soon-to-be-implemented travel bubble between Palau and Taiwan will help to at least revive some semblance of tourism, a full revival of the tourism industry is not expected to occur at least for the rest of the year. While some businesses which closed during lockdown such as Palau Pacific Resort are cautiously reopening with limited hours, many of them cannot say yet when they will be able to operate with a full staff.

A bill to extend the life of the CROSS Act loan to September 30 of this year was introduced in December by former President Tommy Remengesau, but failed to pass the Senate. 

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