GDOL scheduled to release First Round of LWA Payments
The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced that claimants who qualify for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program will be issued their first round of supplemental payments by early next week for the first three eligible weeks. LWA is a program that receives funding from the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. LWA will allow distribution of an additional $300 weekly supplement to eligible individuals receiving UI benefits from state and federal unemployment insurance programs. FEMA announced yesterday that all states will be limited to six weeks of benefits. The GDOL recently received approval for all six weeks of LWA benefits. The GDOL plans to issue the final three weeks’ worth of payments by late next week. Eligibility for the LWA Program is based upon an individual’s weekly benefit determination – an amount calculated by a claimant’s reported wages. Individuals must have received a weekly benefit amount determination of at least $100 to be eligible for LWA supplemental benefits. He/she must also be unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To check eligibility, claimants should visit their My U.I. portal where they will use a link to attest to the reason for their unemployment. Individuals whose employers have filed on their behalf or those who are receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) do not need to attest their reason for unemployment due to weekly certification that addresses this requirement. Only those with an individually filed claim will need to do so. If the claimant is qualified for LWA, he/she will be issued their payments in separate batches, the first batch for three weeks of $300 each ($900) and the second batch for the remaining three weeks of $300 each. These will be LWA benefits for weeks ending August 1 through September 5. “We understood the President’s Executive Order was contingent upon the availability of funds,” said Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler. “Although the six weeks of benefits wasn’t what many had hoped for, the additional support will make a big difference to some struggling to avoid eviction.” Today, nearly 150,000 jobs are listed online at EmployGeorgia.com for Georgians to access. This is a 50% increase over what we saw before the pandemic. The GDOL offers online resources for finding a job, building a resume, and assisting with other reemployment needs. The Georgia Department of Labor has paid more than $13 billion in state and federal benefits since the pandemic began in mid-March. The GDOL issued $196 million in regular unemployment benefits and federal funds for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) payments, PUA payments, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplements, and State Extended Benefits. From week ending 3/21/2020 through 9/5/2020, 3,646,864 regular UI initial claims have been processed, more than the last eight years combined (3.3 million). Of those, 2,441,116 were employer filed claims (67%), and 1,205,748 were individual claims. Claims numbers have dropped below 100,000 for a sixth consecutive week. For week ending Sept. 5, initial claims totaled 50,320, down 963 from the prior week. The number of initial unemployment claims filed throughout the United States for the week ending Sept. 5 was 884,000, unchanged from the previous week’s revised level of 884,000. Last week, the GDOL issued more than $51 million in PUA payments to eligible individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, employees of churches, employees of nonprofits, or those with limited work history who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits. The PUA program may provide benefits to claimants that did not have enough wages to establish a valid regular state UI claim but were prohibited from employment due to COVID-19. From week ending 3/21/2020 through 9/5/2020, 332,444 PUA claims have been validated. In addition, the total federal funds issued to Georgians for FPUC totaled over $27 million last week. Over the past 24 weeks, the GDOL has issued more than $8.5 billion in FPUC funds. FPUC provided an additional $600 weekly payment to any individual eligible for both state and federal unemployment compensation programs. This program ended July 31. From week ending 3/21/2020 through 9/5/2020, the sectors with the most regular UI initial claims processed included Accommodation and Food Services, 872,074, Health Care and Social Assistance, 426,927, Retail Trade, 391,387, Administrative and Support Services, 308,374, and Manufacturing, 281,858. As of 9/1/2020, the trust fund balance was $47,562,149, down $2.5 billion, or 98 percent, from the 3/24/2020 balance of $2,547,476,454. The GDOL will draw funds from the federal government daily to continue paying Georgians out of work. “We had to request funds from the federal government during the recession of 2008-2009 after I first took office,” said Commissioner Butler. “It did not take us long to pay back the money and build our trust fund to one of the healthiest in the nation prior to the pandemic. We will do the same this time.” At this time, GDOL career centers are remaining closed to the public. All online services are still available as the staff continues to answer calls, process claims, respond to customer inquiries, and provide assistance to applicants. The GDOL will reopen offices to the public as soon as social distancing can be effectively implemented to protect both staff and customers. Information on filing an unemployment claim, details on how employers can file partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at dol.georgia.gov.