AUGUSTA — The Federal Emergency Management Agency informed the Maine Department of Labor and Maine Emergency Management Agency Tuesday night it has approved Maine’s application for Lost Wages Assistance funding, which will temporarily add $300 to the weekly unemployment benefits of eligible Mainers.
Wednesday morning, MDOL signed the formal award memo from FEMA.
MDOL will administer the Lost Wages Assistance program.
Because the program utilizes disaster relief funding through FEMA, which is outside of the unemployment insurance system and the three new programs created by Congress, MDOL is in the process of standing up an entirely new program to administer the benefits.
The Department estimates this process will take approximately three weeks, after which it will be able to begin issuing the benefit.
FEMA will initially provide full funding for three weeks of benefits and then, upon request, funding on a weekly basis thereafter for as long as the available funds last. Per Presidential Memorandum, the program is set to expire on December 27.
“This morning, the Department signed the agreement with FEMA to administer these benefits, and we have already begun our work to stand up the new program needed to deliver them as quickly as possible,” said Commissioner Laura Fortman. “While we move to distribute these temporary benefits, we continue to hope that Congress will step up to provide comprehensive, long-term support to Maine people.”
This funding was made available to states by Presidential Memorandum on August 8, 2020, after an additional $600 weekly unemployment benefit authorized by Congress expired on July 31.
The Memorandum directs FEMA to make available up to $44 billion from its Disaster Relief Fund for financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Per current guidance from FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor, individuals are eligible for Lost Wages Assistance if:
they are eligible for unemployment benefits
they are eligible for a weekly benefit of at least $100
they are unemployed, or are partially unemployed, as a direct result of the COVID-19.
Once the program is implemented, benefits will be paid retroactively starting with the week ending August 1. The payments will be made automatically based on unemployment claims received; individuals will not need to call or apply separately for this benefit.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the LWA program are posted on the Department of Labor’s website: maine.gov/unemployment. It will be updated as more information becomes available.