Montana’s application for “Lost Wage Assistance” funds approved

The Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) today announced that the United States Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has approved Montana’s application for the Lost Wages Assistance Payments grant.

This grant allows DLI to provide an additional $400 per week in assistance payment to those receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits due to COVID-related impacts. FEMA disaster relief funds will cover $300 of the new weekly payment, and the other $100 will come from Montana’s allocation of the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund. Lost Wage Assistance was established after Congress did not reauthorize the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an extra $600 payment to eligible UI claimants.

DLI applied for the federal funding to FEMA on August 15 and submitted additional application materials on August 17. Montana is the 8th state to receive FEMA’s approval of Lost Wage Assistance and, to date, the only state who applied for lost wage assistance at the weekly rate of $400. Grants to other states are for $300, with the required 25% state match coming from aggregate UI benefits paid by that state rather than, like Montana, separate fund source for additional $100 weekly payment.

To qualify for this additional funding, claimants must self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. DLI will update its COVID-19 resource website with information on any changes to the filing process before the program goes into effect.

“I’m grateful the Governor and his team was able to quickly assess our state’s wherewithal to meet the state funding match and then act to ensure that unemployed Montanans get the maximum benefit from this interim program.” Acting Commissioner Brenda Nordlund said. “Programming to meet the new requirements is underway and we should be up and running as soon as possible.”

The first week for which the Lost Wages Assistance payment will be available is UI benefit week ending August 1. DLI will provide retroactive payments to eligible claimants from that week forward. The duration of payment is dependent on the terms of the President’s Memorandum. The payment could end in a matter of weeks, if FEMA funding is exhausted or the federal government enacts a new law, similar to the recently expired Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, to supplant the Lost Wages Assistance payment. It will end no later than December 27, 2020.

DLI continues to encourage anyone who believes they may be eligible for UI to file a claim online at MontanaWorks.gov, or at mtpua.mt.gov for those that fall under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance eligibility guidelines. Those with technical, eligibility, or benefits questions are encouraged to view the COVID-19 resource website at dli.mt.gov/covid-19. A variety of information for both Montana workers and employers is available, and resources to help claimants navigate the unemployment process.

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