People who have become jobless in Columbia County and across Oregon due to the pandemic may now qualify for additional weekly unemployment benefits.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the Oregon Employment Department’s application for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program.
The temporary emergency measure 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," Oregon Employment Department. Director David Gersenfeld said. ",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."
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 at unemployment.oregon.gov.
LWA is retroactive to eligible claimants beginning with the week ending August 1. However, if individuals become unemployed after the week ending August 1, 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.
For more information about filing for unemployment insurance benefits, visit unemployment.oregon.gov. To submit a question related to unemployment insurance, please use the Contact Us form.
The following is a release from FEMA.
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor approved Oregon for a FEMA grant under the Lost Wages Assistance program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow Oregon to provide $300 per week -- on top of their regular unemployment benefit -- to those unemployed due to COVID-19. FEMA will work with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to implement a system to make this funding available to Oregon residents.
On Aug. 8, President Trump made available up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the state of Oregon agreed to administer a lost wages program for its citizens who are unemployed due to COVID-19.
FEMA looks forward to working with the governors of additional states who agree to administer a lost wages program to bring financial relief to unemployed Americans.
To see a list of states previously approved for lost wages assistance, go to: https://www.fema.gov/fact-sheet/lost-wages-assistance-approved-states.
To learn more about FEMA’s lost wages supplemental payment assistance, visit: https://www.fema.gov/fact-sheet/fema-lost-wages-supplemental-payment-assistance.