$400 Lost Wages Program Ending; Total payments estimated at $59M

HELENA – The Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) today was informed in a call with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that FEMA will not approve funding for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program beyond Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit week ending September 5.

DLI began issuing $400 weekly payments to eligible claimants on August 26, 2020. FEMA funded $300 of the weekly payment and Montana contributed another $100 from its CARES Act relief funds. At program conclusion, DLI estimates total LWA payments to jobless Montanans will be about $59M.

LWA payments were authorized by FEMA to approved states on a week to week basis. Montana was awarded LWA funding in increments, the first covering three weeks of payments from benefit week ending August 1, and the next three covering benefit weeks through September 5, 2020. No LWA payments will be made beyond the six-week period.

Montana was one of the first states in the U.S. to begin issuing LWA payments and one of only a few states to disperse the maximum $400 to claimants. Lost Wages Assistance was established by Presidential Memorandum after Congress did not reauthorize the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided an extra $600 weekly benefit to eligible UI claimants.

The duration of the LWA program was dependent on the terms of the President’s Memorandum. At the introduction of the program, most experts estimated LWA funding would not extend beyond seven weeks.

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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