August 25, 2020
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved Pennsylvania for a grant under the newest COVID-19 unemployment program Monday.
Pennsylvania residents now can receive an additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits if they lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The funding is being made available via the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, created as a replacement to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. That program, which ended in July, provided an additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits.
"Today, the state of Pennsylvania agreed to administer a lost wages program for its citizens who are unemployed due to COVID-19," FEMA officials said in a press release. "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."
Thirty states have been admitted to the program, which allocates about $44 billion from FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund to aid the millions of Americans experiencing job loss. New Jersey officials have not yet announced whether the state will participate in the new federal program.
Gov. Tom Wolf reluctantly instructed Pennsylvania officials to apply to the program Friday. The state was approved just days later.
Wolf bemoaned Congress's failure to extend the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, calling the additional $600 weekly benefits "a lifeline" to Pennsylvania families.
He said it could take weeks before residents begin receiving the extra $300 per week because state officials will have to create new computer systems to distribute the payments. That's because the program is funded with money typically reserved for storm disaster relief.
Wolf also said the benefits, which are retroactive to the week of Aug. 1, could end before they are planned to expire on Dec. 27. Instead, he has pushed for an extension of the FPUC program.
"The payment could end in a matter of weeks if FEMA funding is exhausted or the federal government enacts a new law or extends FPUC to replace the Lost Wages Assistance payment," state officials wrote in a press release issued Friday.
To qualify for the additional $300, residents must receive at least $100 per week in unemployment compensation or related benefits, and self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to the pandemic. More information is available here.