Billy Penn: Layla A Jones - September 6, 2020
A weekly $300 boost for some Pennsylvanians collecting unemployment because of COVID-related issues will begin as soon as Sept. 14, according to the Pa. Department of Labor and Industry.
The extra funds are a stop-gap replacement for the expired $600 CARES Act assistance benefits. Called Lost Wages Assistance (LWA), the new $44 billion program is funded by FEMA, with $1.5 billion going to Pa. Most people who are eligible will have to fill out a short application, but a few will get it automatically.
Announced at the beginning of August, it was unclear when the commonwealth would get the new portal up and running, but L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said things are ahead of schedule, and applications opened Sept. 6.
More than 600k Pennsylvanians are currently collecting unemployment. That’s nearly one out of every 20 residents, and includes about 100k people in Philadelphia.
President Donald Trump originally touted the LWA program as a $400-per-week initiative, but later called on states to supplement a quarter of that. Pa., like most other states with pandemic-strained budgets, opted to apply its $100 contribution to normal unemployment payouts.
LWA came about after Congress was unable to agree. Republicans wanted to move forward with a decreased $200-a-week payment, while Democrats want to bring back the full $600. Congress is on recess until after Labor Day.
If you’re wondering whether you’re eligible to collect the additional $300 each week, how to apply, when it will come, and how long it will last, here’s what you should know.
Who’s eligible for Lost Wages Assistance?
Anyone collecting at least $100 per week in regular unemployment compensation in Pa. is eligible for the $300 Lost Wages Assistance support.
That applies for recipients of any of these state programs:
Regular Unemployment Compensation (UC)
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC — for folks whose regular UC would have already run out)
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA — for gig workers or others not usually eligible for benefits)
Extended Benefits (EB)
Short-Time Compensation (STC) or Shared Work
Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA)
How do I apply for LWA?
Most people will need to visit www.uc.pa.gov/cert to certify your unemployment is related to COVID disruptions.
Once there, log in using your PIN as if you’re filing a biweekly claim, choose “Complete LWA Certification,” and fill out the form. You’ll only need to do this once, per L&I.
However, if you’re already getting PUA or Shared Work benefits, you don’t have to apply at all — the extra benefits should automatically start showing up as soon as Sept. 14. (Shared Work employers do have to provide certification.)
When will LWA benefits be distributed?
Pennsylvanians who apply and qualify for the benefits should begin getting the extra payments in mid-September, with Monday, Sept. 14, being the earliest possible date, according to the state.
For all who qualify, payments will be made retroactively for weeks beginning Aug. 1, 2020.
If you’re still waiting on some benefits from August, your LWA boosts will supposedly kick in after those go out, lagging by a week (assuming you apply and are approved).
How long will LWA benefits last?
This depends on how many people apply for and are eligible for them, because they’re available only until the $44 billion in FEMA funds run out. (The money was originally slated to be used to mitigate storm damage.)
In Pa., LWA will run at least three weeks, per the Dept. of Labor, and will not continue beyond Dec. 27. Some estimates say the state’s $1.5B could be enough to provide five weeks of boost.
For comparison, Pennsylvania has distributed more than $25 billion in unemployment compensation since the pandemic hit in mid-March. About $15 billion of that was the $600 weekly CARES Act addition.
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