Updated on September 23, 2020.
On August 8, 2020, President Trump signed legislation (now known as the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program) aimed at providing relief to millions of unemployed Americans. This program uses federal funds to increase unemployment payments.
Find out how the LWA may affect your unemployment benefits.
How have my federal unemployment benefits changed?
A little refresher: under the CARES Act, the federal government provided an additional $600 per week to people on unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This federal benefit ran out at the end of July, and over 30 million out of work Americans saw their unemployment checks slashed.
This memo states that funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) be used to add $300 per week to unemployment checks. Also, states may opt-in to provide an additional $100 (but that money is sourced from state funds).
This federal unemployment stimulus will be provided to eligible claimants starting (retroactively) on August 1, 2020, through December 27, 2020.
Has eligibility to receive the federal unemployment benefit changed?
Under the CARES Act, anyone who qualified for at least $1.00 of either state unemployment benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was eligible for the federal $600 stimulus.
Now, a claimant must qualify for at least $100 of state unemployment benefits or PUA to receive the additional $400. Depending on how your state calculates benefits, someone who was eligible for the $600 of federal stimulus through the end of July (including those who are self-employed or workers who rely on tips) may not be eligible for this extended benefit.
Is it possible the government will run out of funds for the federal unemployment benefit program?
Trump’s executive action extends benefits until funds run out or until December 27, 2020, whichever comes first.
Certain states like Arizona, Massachusetts, and Idaho have already run out of funding, while other states haven’t even started paying out this benefit.
What do I need to do to access these benefits?
In most cases: nothing. If you are registered for unemployment and eligible for this benefit it will be automatically added to your paycheck. However, certain states require you to self-certify for this benefit.
When can I actually expect to receive this benefit?
It depends on your state; check your state’s Department of Labor (DOL) website for more information.