Missouri has become only the third state in the nation to begin processing payments to unemployed workers under the federal Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. The state began processing the $300 federal supplemental payments last night to eligible individuals.
Because Missouri was one of the first states to apply for and be approved for the LWA grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Disaster Relief Fund and made the necessary changes to UInteract, its claims filing system, eligible unemployed workers should soon begin receiving payments for the weeks ending August 1, August 8 and August 15, 2020.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR) has processed more than $4 billion in benefit payments to assist unemployed Missourians.
“Because of Governor Parson’s decisive leadership, Missouri was the fifth state to apply and receive approval for over $200 million in funding through the LWA,” said DOLIR Director Anna Hui. “Due to the incredible state staff who have worked tirelessly to quickly implement these process and system changes, Missouri can now pay the $300 federal supplement to over 100,000 eligible Missourians.”
To receive an LWA benefit payment, an individual must be eligible to receive at least $100 in unemployment benefits per week, and the individual must self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who self-certified that they are unemployed due to COVID-19 when they filed their initial claim and are otherwise eligible for an LWA benefit payment do not need to take any action because the state will automatically add the $300 to their weekly benefit amount. Since $35 is the lowest weekly benefits per week, often based on the limited hours worked, there will be some unemployed individuals who will not meet the $100 eligibility threshold. Individuals who did not indicate they were unemployed due to COVID-19 and meet the other eligibility requirements will receive either an email or letter from the DES by the end of next week on their potential eligibility for the LWA program.
As the Division of Employment Security (DES) will be processing retroactive payments separately due to the volume, eligible individuals should not expect to receive all their retroactive payments on the same day. The first retroactive payment should be issued by the end of the week, while the other retroactive payments should be received by the end of next week. Payments may appear in UInteract up to 24 hours before the payment is released to the bank. After the payment file is released to the bank, it may take up to 48 hours of processing time for the receiving bank to provide access to the funds. The DES was initially approved for three weeks of the LWA supplemental benefits by FEMA. The state has requested but has not yet received FEMA approval to pay the week ending August 22, 2020.
The LWA is funded through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. The President issued an Executive Order on August 8, 2020, directing FEMA, with guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor, to administer the LWA program. The LWA program will continue until the earlier of 1) FEMA expends $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), or 2) the total unobligated balance of the DRF decreases to $25 billion, or 3) legislation is enacted that provides, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supplemental federal unemployment compensation or similar compensation for unemployed or underemployed individuals; or 4) December 27, 2020, which is the end of the period of performance for the grant.
With the implementation of the LWA, Missouri continues to be a national leader in meeting the needs of the unemployed. In April, Missouri launched the third federal program under the CARES Act in just under a month of having received its first guidance from the federal government. Additionally, in April, Missouri became one of the first ten states to start processing payments for the self-employed and others through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
For those struggling during this time, the Missouri Service Navigator can help connect individuals and families with vital local services. For more assistance resources and information, visit https://labor.mo.gov/DES/Claims/public_programs.