(Hagåtña, Guam) – Responding to concerns from Guam’s displaced workers, Vice Speaker Telena Cruz Nelson sent Freedom of Information Act requests on Monday to the Guam Department of Labor and Department of Administration regarding the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
The Vice Speaker additionally sent pandemic-related information requests to the Department of Corrections, Guam International Airport Authority and Department of Public Health and Social Services.
As thousands of displaced workers on Guam await federal aid, the Vice Speaker is seeking more information on the Guam Department of Labor and Department of Administration’s progress in setting up local guidelines for Guam residents to avail of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. From each agency, the Vice Speaker, on behalf of the people of Guam, requested information regarding the following:
· Unemployment guidelines pertaining to Guam
· Pandemic Unemployment Assistance guidelines and the process by which the public may apply
· Status or progress on implementation of unemployment insurance and the PUA
· Suggestions and recommendations for the 35th Guam Legislature’s role in assisting with implementation and execution of all of the above
Vice Speaker Nelson additionally requested from the Guam Department of Labor information on any COVID-19 funding obtained by the department, including related financial expense reports.
“Many people and displaced workers in our island community, who are without a financial safety net, have repeatedly called for updates on when they will be able to apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program,” said Vice Speaker Telena Cruz Nelson. “While I introduced legislation addressing the need for unemployment benefits before this crisis was realized, we remain committed to ensuring our people receive any financial aid they are entitled to and especially during their time of need.”
The Vice Speaker had introduced Bill No. 313-35, “The Unemployment Benefits Act of 2020,” on March 10, 2020, days before the Governor had declared a public health emergency on Guam. The proposed legislation sought the creation of a local unemployment benefits program for Guam to be able to receive federal financial aid for workers displaced as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In her letter to the Department of Corrections, Vice Speaker Nelson requested the department’s COVID-19 response plans and urged prison leadership to work with DPHSS, the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority and the Office of the Governor to ensure that all inmates, detainees and employees of the prison are tested for the disease. Nelson offered DOC any assistance by her office and the 35th Guam Legislature that would further help the prison accomplish this request.
According to a recently published report by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 2,000 out of 2,700, or 70 percent, of federal inmates incarcerated across the nation have tested positive for COVID-19.
“In light of these high statistics for prison populations across the nation and, as a preventative measure, we want to ensure that all inmates, detainees and prison employees are tested for their wellbeing and the wellbeing of others,” Nelson said. “With the prison’s capacity, there is concern for the impact the spread of this disease could have. We must ensure that there is no reason to believe that it is currently spreading through the prison and also reassure our island community and the families of all inmates, detainees and employees.”
In her letters to GIAA and DPHSS, Vice Speaker Nelson explained that her office has received concerns from constituents regarding the COVID-19 quarantine directive for travelers arriving on Guam. Nelson requested that GIAA Executive Manager Tom Ada and DPHSS Director Linda Unpingco DeNorcey consider modifying the quarantine directive to require that all incoming travelers be tested for COVID-19 upon arriving on island and placed in quarantine. The Vice Speaker recommended that quarantined travelers be released upon receipt of a negative test result.
“There have been concerns from our people that current quarantine protocols for incoming travelers are inconvenient and a burden on those who do not show symptoms and later test negative,” Nelson said. “We want to ensure that all incoming travelers are tested and kept in quarantine until they receive negative results. However, some quarantined travelers have experienced delay in receiving their test results and have been subjected to staying in quarantine without confirmation of having the disease. While protecting our island community from further infection, we can also ensure that those doing their part in quarantine are released once they get the all-clear from public health officials.”
Vice Speaker Nelson additionally recommended to DPHSS the implementation of antibody testing to help understand the prevalence of COVID-19 among Guam’s population and as a preventative measure for any unprecedented, additional cases in the future.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, antibody blood tests, also called antibody tests, check your blood by looking for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection with the coronavirus. Antibody tests are slowly becoming available through healthcare providers, the CDC states. Nelson offered GIAA and DPHSS any assistance by her office and the 35th Guam Legislature that would further help them accomplish these requests.
For more information, please contact Tihu Lujan at The Office of Vice Speaker
Telena Cruz Nelson at (671) 989-7696 or email@example.com.
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