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Memo clarifies which workers are eligible for unemployment benefits

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Private sector applications start next week

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The first criteria required for filing unemployment claims relating to the coronavirus pandemic under two federal programs is that the employee “must be a U.S citizen, US National or US permanent resident.”

This is according to a June 1st memorandum by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga who provided guidelines for private sector employees and employers for the federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

The governor’s memo comes weeks after workers and employers in the private sector have raised questions on who qualifies for unemployment benefits, under through provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities (CARES) Act of 2020.

According to the governor, the ASG Department of Human Resources (ASG-DHR) is responsible for establishing and administering procedures for operational control and quality assurance of the PUA and FPUC programs for public and private sector employees who have become “unemployed, partially employed, self-employed or unable or unavailable to work due to COVID-19”.

The unemployment benefit “may assist some — but not all — furloughed employees”, according to the memo, which includes a reminder, “Everyone can apply, but not everyone can qualify.”

There are 12 requirements for eligibility and top of the list is that the employee must be a US citizen, US national or US permanent resident — having American Samoa permanent residency or having a valid American Samoa Immigration ID alone “does NOT qualify”.

To qualify an individual must also qualify under one of the following:

Other criteria includes:

•     Employee who has a child in their household, for which the employee is the  primary caregiver, who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and childcare is required for the employee to work

•     Employee who is unable to reach their work place due to imposed quarantine measures as a result of COVID-19 declaration.

•     Employee who is unable to work under advisement of a health care  provider to self-quarantine

•     Employee who is scheduled to begin employment and doesn’t have a job or is unable to reach his/ her job as a result of COVID-19

•     Employee who had quit the job as a direct result of COVID-19

•     Employee whose place of employment is closed, resulting in unemployment or partial employment, as a direct result of the COVID-19 declaration

•     Private contractors/ self-employed with severely limited ability to continue performing customary job as a direct result of COVI-19

For the private sector employees, ASG-DHR will begin processing unemployment claims three days next week at three sites: Tafuna Elementary School Gymnasium, Samoana High School and Aua Elementary School.

Dates for filing claims at these sites are; June 9th, June 11, and June 13th — from 8a.m to 3p.m.  “It is essential that employees report at the correct date and time to minimize public gatherings,” the memo said.

Furthermore, there is “no guarantee that any employee’s application will be approved — these sites are only to allow program application,” according to the memo.

What’s needed in order to file a claim: valid ID - such as US passport, valid driver’s license and ASG ID; social security card and the latest check-stub.

Private sector employees are urged to bring all necessary documentation to show citizenship/national status, pay rate and employment verification. And individuals without the required documents will be asked to leave the site and return with all required documents.

 “There are no exceptions to these criteria and fraudulent claims will be diligently prosecuted,” the memo states.  Any questions contact DHR at 633-4485.

The memo also includes guidelines for ASG employees and Samoa News will report on this in Monday’s edition.

Meanwhile, the governor informed Commerce Department director Fuiavailiili Keniseli Lafaele during Sunday’s government COVID-19 task force meeting that the DOC is responsible for communicating and helping businesses with their needs relating to COVID-19 federal funding.

Lolo said the Chamber of Commerce has requested to have a member on the task force. However, he said the task force is specific to the government.