On Monday, October 26, 2020, Governor Oliver and Lieutenant Governor Perman welcomed the Legislative branch led by the Hon. Ausen T. Lambert, Speaker of the 10th Pohnpei State Legislature and Vice Speaker, Hon. Stevick Edwin, to the Governor’s Conference Room for a Joint State Leadership Meeting at 10:00 am.
Lt. Governor Perman and Speaker Lambert provided opening remarks for the Executive and Legislative branches, respectively. Lt. Governor Perman welcomed Mr. Rob Solomon from the FSM Department of Finance, asking him to help explain the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA). Speaker Lambert thanked Governor Oliver for initiating this joint leadership meeting and also for the FSM Department of Finance for accepting the Governor’s invitation to provide a presentation on the PUA. Mr. Rob Solomon, represented the FSM Secretary of Finance, Mr. Eugene Amor.
Mr. Solomon gave an overview of the program, including the prescribed amounts payable to qualified applicants, $166 per week, and added that from April – July 2020, an additional $600 was included in the weekly payments. He went on to add that the PUA is a U.S. Department of Labor regulated program and the FSM Department of Finance is following their rules and regulations and because FSM does not have an unemployment benefits program, the guidelines used are for the state of Hawaii. Since the start of the program, there has been $7 million paid out in PUA benefits, $4 million in Pohnpei alone. In explaining eligibility for PUA, Mr. Solomon said that everyone is encouraged to apply, but not everyone will be eligible for benefits. He said since there have been no positive COVID-19 cases in FSM, proving that COVID-19 is the reason for loss or reduction of income is crucial in the application process.
During the question and answer session that followed Mr. Solomon’s presentation, Governor Oliver reiterated an offer that was made before the start of the PUA program in Pohnpei to provide assistance to the PUA office through a State Focal Point, to help Pohnpei residents properly fill out applications and provide the required documents to qualify. Mr. Solomon acknowledged that a challenge exists with applications being properly filled out and would take the Governor’s request to the FSM Secretary of Finance. Speaker Ausen T. Lambert asked that this very important benefit be managed carefully especially in light of the ongoing compact re-negotiations.