The Puerto Rico Department of Labor announced the launch of a new online Pandemic Unemployment Assistance platform — known as FastPUA — to expedite claims, by working in tandem with the Puerto Rico Treasury Department, which will share taxpayer information.
The Labor Department began testing the platform last week, during which some 5,749 claimants accessed the website, agency Secretary Carlos Rivera-Santiago confirmed.
“This platform is of utmost importance to be able to provide assistance to everyone who has been affected by the COVID-19 situation and comply with the legal requirements,” Gov. Wanda Vázquez said.
“We hope that this collaboration between the Labor Department and the Treasury Department of the will expedite the safe granting of funds to those who qualify and who need it so badly,” she said.
The platform aims to provide a faster process, in which information submitted by the claimant is validated with the Treasury Department, preventing fraud and avoiding greater inconvenience to the applicant, Rivera-Santiago said.
At the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, this media outlet interviewed Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés and asked him about the possibility of collaborating with the Labor Department, which was — and still is — lagging on providing unemployment benefits under the PUA program to thousands of people.
At the time, Parés said the agency would have to look into how it could assist the Labor Department, as data systems were different and disconnected.
Some of the advantages of the new platform allow beneficiaries to: check the status of their weekly claim; receive their correspondence immediately by email; learn of decisions online; and get benefit payments between 24 to 72 hours via direct deposit. Meanwhile, most claims would be evaluated automatically, allowing for immediate approval.
Meanwhile, Parés stressed the importance of promoting technology-based tools that streamline financial assistance claim processes and minimize fraud risks.
“The new digital platform will not only allow the Labor Department to process claims quicker, but it will also allow a validation mechanism with Treasury Department records to corroborate the information provided by the applicants and determine whether, in fact, the claimant meets the parameters to be considered a self-employed worker, according to the Internal Revenue Code,” Parés said.
“As an example, for several years now, the law has established that everyone who is self-employed must maintain a current merchant registration,” Parés-Alicea said.
To date, the Labor Department has received 353,051 claims for PUA, of which 307,169 are collecting, some 13,002 are pending to collect compensation, while another 5,311 have been declared ineligible to receive compensation.
The platform is available to all those who are eligible to receive the PUA compensation.