August 28, 2020 (Salem, Ore.)—Today the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved the Oregon Employment Department’s application for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, a temporary emergency measure that gives an additional $300 per week to people who are out of work due to COVID-19 and who and are receiving unemployment benefits.
“We know this has been a very stressful period for many Oregonians. While we continue to hope for more robust, longer-term support for those in need, we are excited to be able to provide additional financial relief at this time. We are working quickly to get this program up and running, and get funds out the door as soon as possible,” said David Gersenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department.
The LWA program, which can use up to a total of $44 million in disaster relief funding, may run for three to five weeks, or potentially longer. The exact duration is uncertain, and depends on the number of participating states and the number of payments that go out. It may also be depleted in the event of a natural disaster. Oregon has been approved to provide three weeks of payments, and benefits will be dispersed to Oregonians who received unemployment benefits from July 26 through August 15. The department will seek additional weeks of LWA benefits as soon as they become available.
Oregonians automatically qualify for this program if they:
- Have received unemployment benefits from July 26, 2020, through August 15, 2020; and
- Self-certify they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. This will require a new step for claimants currently receiving regular unemployment benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Extended Benefits (EB). Individuals receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will not need to certify because they already did so when they first applied for benefits.
The Employment Department has already been working to implement this program in an effort to get benefits to people as soon as possible. That work is not yet complete, but as soon as the Employment Department has an estimated time when payments will be released, or next steps for people to seek these benefits, that information will be shared publicly, including on the Employment Department’s website (unemployment.oregon.gov).
LWA is retroactive to eligible claimants beginning with the week ending August 1, 2020. However, if individuals become unemployed after the week ending August 1, 2020, they only can receive LWA for weeks where they qualify for unemployment benefits and meet LWA eligibility requirements.
LWA payments are taxable under federal law, just like regular unemployment insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. If taxes are withheld from other benefits, they will also be withheld from the LWA benefits.
The LWA program only provides federal funding for $300 weekly benefit payments. Official guidance from the Department of Labor prohibits states from using Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund money to provide the additional $100. Providing the additional $100 per week would require the Oregon Legislature to appropriate money to pay for those benefits.
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