With No Congressional Solution in Sight, Pennsylvania Applies for Federal Lost Wages Assistance Funds
August 21, 2020
Governor Tom Wolf directed the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) to submit an application today for President Trump’s temporary Lost Wages Assistance grant funds to provide an additional $300 per week in supplemental payments to some Pennsylvanians receiving unemployment benefits.
“By failing to put out of work Americans first and extending the extra $600 per week federal benefit that ended in July, Congressional Republicans are forcing our hand to apply for these funds,” said Governor Wolf. “The president’s convoluted, short-term program, which will likely only provide payments for five or six weeks, will pay those who are eligible only half as much as before and will make 30,000 Pennsylvanians ineligible to continue receiving an additional weekly benefit.
“There is still time for Congressional Republicans to pass a good and practical solution that simply extends the extra weekly benefit, and I urge them to act now. As I have said before and will continue to say, the extra $600 per week was the lifeline Pennsylvania families needed to get by. They deserve better.”
Last week, the Governor sent a letter to Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation reaffirming his support for an extension of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. With Senate Republicans failing to pass a bill continuing FPUC, President Trump on August 8 authorized the Lost Wages Assistance plan.
The president’s plan is not a true unemployment insurance program and is, instead, funded by $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that is intended for storm disaster relief. Because of this very important distinction, payments to eligible workers will be delayed while states, including Pennsylvania, create a new computer system.
If approved, L&I will use this grant funding to provide an additional $300 per week in assistance payments to people receiving unemployment compensation benefits due to COVID-19-related impacts.
In order to qualify for the extra $300, eligible individuals must receive at least $100 per week in regular Unemployment Compensation (UC); Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC); Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA); Extended Benefits (EB); Short-Time Compensation (STC) or Shared Work; and Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA) and must self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Payments will be made to eligible claimants retroactively from August 1, 2020. The payment could end in a matter of weeks if FEMA funding is exhausted or the federal government enacts a new law or extends FPUC to replace the Lost Wages Assistance payment. It will end no later than December 27, 2020.
The FPUC program, funded entirely by the federal government, ended on July 25. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to continue the benefit, but the Senate has yet to approve its extension.