The final states participating in President Trump’s federal unemployment boost, known as the Lost Wages Assistance program, have submitted their applications.
That means enhanced weekly unemployment payments are on the way. In more than a dozen states, the payments have already made it to people’s wallets.
Through an executive order on Aug. 8, the president enacted the supplementary unemployment program. It enhances state unemployment payments by $300 through federal funds. The program was initially pitched as a $400 unemployment boost, but as the specifics of the program indicated, the additional $100 was supposed to be picked up by states.
Each state had to decide how to proceed by Sept. 10, a rolling deadline set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees disbursement of the federal LWA funds.
Did your state choose to boost weekly unemployment payments by $400, $300 or nothing? The Penny Hoarder analyzed all 50 states and Washington D.C. to see how each state is implementing the program.
Lost Wages Assistance Program: A Look at All 50 States and D.C.
The interactive map below provides specific information about the LWA program in each state, including:
- Whether each state is paying out an extra $400, $300 or zero dollars each week.
- An estimated payout date of the enhanced payments, if available.
- Each state’s average weekly unemployment benefit — with and without the additional LWA enhancement.
According to The Penny Hoarder’s analysis, only five states chose to enhance weekly unemployment payments by $400, while 44 states and D.C. chose the $300 plan. One state, South Dakota, snubbed the program entirely.
The Penny Hoarder confirmed that at least 15 states have made enhanced payments on or before FEMA’s Sept. 10 rolling deadline. All but one of those 15 states — Montana — chose the $300 plan.
Arizona was the first state to implement the $300 plan, starting payments on Aug. 17. Montana was the first state to implement the $400 plan, and those payments started Aug. 27. As of the deadline, Nevada was the only state awaiting approval from FEMA.
FAQs about the Lost Wages Assistance Program
Here’s what we know about the temporary unemployment boost.
Who’s Eligible for the New Unemployment Boost?
Anyone who is fully or partially unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic and is receiving at least $100 a week in unemployment benefits is eligible.
The $100 of weekly benefits must come from one of the following unemployment programs:
Those receiving less than $100 per week in unemployment payments won’t be able to collect the extra funds.
Is There an Application to Receive Lost Wages Assistance?
Separate applications aren’t required to receive the funds, but you will have to take action. The boosted payments through the new LWA program aren’t automatic like the previous $600 payments.
States must first determine that you’re receiving at least $100 per week from one of the seven unemployment programs mentioned above. Then, you will need to self-certify that you are currently unemployed due to the pandemic.
The self-certification process can be completed through your unemployment profile where you make your weekly jobless claims.
State unemployment agencies are required to reach out to those who are eligible with more information.
What About the $600 Weekly Payments — Is This the Same Program?
No. The $600 supplement to unemployment payments was a provision of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package. That provision, which expired July 31, is called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC.
An extension to that program was part of plans for a second stimulus bill, but lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement. Negotiations broke down, and FPUC expired.
On Aug. 8, President Trump took executive action to create the Lost Wages Assistance program as a stopgap measure. LWA provides $300 per week. The funds are sourced from a FEMA reserve containing roughly $44 billion. This new program has a hard end date of Dec. 27, but the funds will deplete before that date.
How Long Will the Boosted Payments Last?
The enhanced payments are technically authorized from Aug. 1 to Dec. 27. The currently available funds won’t last that long.
FEMA told the Associated Press that it has enough money to provide only six weeks of enhanced payments. Those payments are back dated, starting Aug. 1.
How Are Some States Already Paying Out?
Though Lost Wages Assistance is available federally, it requires each state to take individual action to opt into the program. States must apply to FEMA and await approval. Once the state is approved, the next hurdle is implementing a new payment system to get the federal funds into your pocket.
Unemployment benefits expert Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project told The Penny Hoarder that some states have outdated computer systems, and other states have advanced ones. She said state unemployment agencies must code LWA payments separately from normal unemployment benefits in order to keep track of the federal FEMA funds.
So the ultimate payout date is contingent on several factors:
- When your state applied to FEMA.
- When FEMA approved your state.
- How fast your state can create a new payment system.
According to guidance provided by FEMA, the approval for the program guarantees only three weeks of funding. After those funds are disbursed, the state needs to apply again on a week-by-week basis.
Can I Get LWA Payments Retroactively?
Yes. The lost wages program is in effect as of Aug. 1. As long as you are filling out your weekly unemployment claims (and are receiving at least $100 per week) you will be able to collect the enhanced payments for each eligible week while funding lasts.
Unless you live in one of the handful of states that implemented the program in August, most or all of the boosted payments will be retroactive.
Due to limited available funding, the program will last only six or so weeks. The payments cover Aug. 1, Aug. 8, Aug. 15, Aug. 22, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5. The majority of states have estimated payout dates on or after Sept. 5. Unemployed residents of those states will likely receive a lump-sum, retroactive payment.
Unless more funding is supplied to FEMA, it’s unlikely that boosted weekly payments will catch up to the present day.