August 22, 2020
Pennsylvania officials are now applying to join a new COVID-19 unemployment program which launched earlier this month to bring residents weekly payments of $300 per week.
Gov. Tom Wolf ordered officials in the Pa. Department of Labor and Industry to submit an application to the "Lost Wages Assistance" program on Friday. The program will send $300 weekly employment to state workers on top of regular employment to those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
The federal program is meant to replace the $600 weekly payments from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program which was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act months ago.
The FPUC program expired on July 25, to the criticism of some legislators including Gov. Wolf. The House of Representatives voted to continue the program but it is still up for a vote in the Senate.
Gov. Wolf announced his directive for officials to apply to the new, replacement program in a release on Friday, which also criticized the Lost Wages Assistance program itself and argued for the return of FPUC.
“By failing to put out of work Americans first and extending the extra $600 per week federal benefit that ended in July, Congressional Republicans are forcing our hand to apply for these funds,” said Governor Wolf. "There is still time for Congressional Republicans to pass a good and practical solution that simply extends the extra weekly benefit, and I urge them to act now."
President Donald Trump authorized the program on Aug. 8 and which began sending out funds to states on Aug. 15. Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri and Utah have all already begun receiving the federal funds which are distributed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Wolf added that because funds are being distributed through FEMA, a program which typically funds storm disaster relief, payments to state workers may be slowed. Individual states may have to create new computer systems to distribute the $300 payments, delaying their distribution.
If Pennsylvania's application is approved, unemployment payments will be paid to residents beginning from the week of Aug. 1, and lasting as late as Dec. 27. However, officials are concerned that funding from FEMA may run out before that time.
Individuals seeking to apply for the Lost Wages Assistance program must already receive at least $100 per week in another form of unemployment, such as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
Workers will still have to prove that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.