States exhausting $300 LWA payments: FEMA clarifies program will cover six weeks of benefits

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(© W. Scott McGill – stock.adobe.com)

Nearly seven weeks after the $600-per-week enhanced federal unemployment benefit enacted under the CARES Act expired, 34 states still have not initiated the $300 payments under the Lost Wages Assistance program.

Now the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the program, has warned that the fund is exhausted, with $30 billion of $44 billion available already spent or committed.

State employment agencies were told in a Sept. 9 FEMA presentation that “payments should only be provided for the weeks that FEMA has approved,” with an initial award (weeks 1-3) and the potential of an additional weeks 4, 5 and 6 currently subject to FEMA processing to follow if approved.

As of writing, only 16 states have paid benefits under the Lost Wages Assistance program. Of these, at least six (Texas, Montana, Tennessee, Iowa, Utah, Arizona) have already begun warning recipients that benefits will soon be exhausted, and three more (New Mexico, Missouri, and Louisiana) appear likely to exhaust their benefits soon based on the quantity and timing of payments already issued.

“America’s economy is getting hammered, but when those who need help most look to Washington they see Senate Republicans posturing with bad legislation and the White House refusing to negotiate,” said Joint Economic Committee Vice Chair Don Beyer (D-VA-08).

“For 25 weeks in a row now the country has seen more new unemployment claims than the worst week of the Great Recession, and still the White House is refusing to take this crisis seriously. Donald Trump’s Executive Order is not nearly good enough for millions of unemployed workers losing food security, housing, and health care. The White House must resume negotiations with Congressional leaders to provide strong economic stimulus as soon as possible,” Beyer said.

Some states say they will be unable to implement payments before late October; even in states that have already made payments vast numbers are still waiting for benefits as their status is verified.

Many unemployed workers will also be excluded from benefits, primarily because of the Trump administration’s decision to bar an estimated 1 million individuals receiving less than $100-per-month from state unemployment.


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