Lost Wage Assistance: More problems for claimants

As previously noted, the executive order that created this program is full of problems. Further commentary has continued to remark about the suspect legality of this program. See here and here.

But a possible something is better than nothing, and so Wisconsin has applied for benefits under this program.

For Wisconsin, only those who receive $100 or more in unemployment benefits of some kind will be eligible for the additional $300 in Lost Wage Assistance. As a result, the working poor are left out of this program. Luckily, because the minimum weekly benefit rate for PUA in Wisconsin is $163, those claimants will be eligible for Lost Wage Assistance benefits.

Note: WPR reports that 15,000 claimants are likely to lose out on Lost Wage Assistance when it becomes available because their weekly benefit rate is less than $100.

Still, with Wisconsin in such an administrative mess regarding unemployment, the Department does not expect to pay out any Lost Wage Assistance until late October 2020 at the earliest for benefits tied to the first three weeks of August 2020. That is, there is a three month wait before any Lost Wage Assistance benefits will actually be paid out.

As usual, Wisconsin also is pursuing an extremely limited and narrow reading of this benefit program. Here is the new welcome screen a claimant sees after connecting to his or her portal:

Lost Wage Assistance question and warning

First, claimants need to indicate they have lost work because of the pandemic to be potentially eligible for Lost Wage Assistance benefits. But, the Department is implying in this threshold question that only those who have lost work after August 1st for a specific Covid-19 related reason qualify. So, folks who lost work before August 1st are likely to answer “no” and be declared ineligible for this program when they should answer “yes.”

Note: how does a claimant change his or her answer to this question? I have no idea.

Second, the Department will apply a very restrictive view of the pandemic-related reasons for being eligible for this benefit. Basically, the Department is requiring one of the reasons specified in this chart to exist, and a general loss of work — either wholly or partially — is not listed here. As a result, the Department is denying numerous claims even though both employer and employee indicate the layoff is pandemic-related.

Finally and most problematic, clicking “yes” or “no” does nothing but bring the claimant to his or her regular portal welcome screen. There are no additional questions or information about the Lost Wage Assistance program. Hence, the claimant has no idea what the answer meant or how and why it is recorded. This question and warning screen is essentially meaningless to the claimant.

Indeed, the Department’s guidance about the Lost Wage Assistance program offers absolutely no description of this question and why it is being asked or how to answer it. As usual, claimants need to guess at what the Department wants from them.

Update (10 Sept. 2020): Added info from WPR about the number of people in Wisconsin who will not be eligible for Lost Wage Assistance because their weekly benefit rate is less than $100.

Update (14 Sept. 2020): USA Today has a feature article about Wisconsin’s demand to recoup the yet unpaid LWA benefits. As Pam Herd explains, this effort is “asinine.”

Update (15 Sept. 2020): For a run-down of what other states are doing and how the Lost Wage Assistance falls far short of the $600 PUC, see this post. WPR reports that FEMA is indicating Wisconsinites may receive six weeks of LWA benefits. These benefits still not due until the end of October, however, and no explanation yet from the Department about its repayment demand.

Update (16 Sept. 2020): WPR reports that the Department is removing the payback requirement and that it is up claimants to fix “wrong” answers about their LWA eligibility by contacting the Department by phone. Some key quotations:

Inaccurate guidance
On Friday, FEMA updated its guidance to DWD, saying the language the department included was “not entirely inaccurate,” but they added that the agency does not believe Congress will pass additional legislation that will create duplicative benefits.

Only pandemic job loss needed
But in guidance to states about who is eligible under the program, FEMA states specifically “the most recent job separation does not need to be directly related to COVID-19.”

The guidance from FEMA goes on to say “at the time of self certification for the program, the individual must be unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.”

Correcting a LWA claim mistake
In an email Tuesday evening, Jedd said DWD plans to reach out to LWA program applicants in an attempt to catch those who may have answered the question incorrectly. He also said that individuals who answered the question incorrectly can call DWD’s help center and ask a staff member to change their answer to the question.

 Update (24 Sept. 2020): Marketplace has an update on the status of Lost Assistance benefits. As expected, these funds are running out, and Wisconsin may not get funding for six weeks. Also, note that nine other states have finished paying out six weeks of LWA benefits and 30 other states are in the process of distributing six weeks of LWA benefits.

Update (22 Oct. 2020): The Department announced yesterday that it has started paying out Lost Wage Assistance benefits: $300 for up to six weeks.

“Payments from the LWA program will be made retroactively to eligible claimants for up to six weeks: the weeks ending August 1, August 8, August 15, August 22, August 29, and September 5, 2020. FEMA will not fund any weeks after September 5, 2020. DWD estimates up to 220,000 claimants may be eligible for LWA.”

6 thoughts on “Lost Wage Assistance: More problems for claimants

  1. Pingback: The $600 PUC in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Unemployment

  2. It’s sad when most of us don’t get the extra help cause we only make less than the 100 dollars to qualify. What about the ones that don’t make that much are we to sit and become homeless the way donald trump is screwing us is a shame why don’t every one get it like the first cares act allowed us to. Some one need to address this to the governor or any one who will listen and help.

  3. I’ve been waiting patiently for the last 5 months for any kind of resolution to my claims. After 3 months of waiting for a determination for regular UI benefits, I was told I didn’t qualify for regular benefits due to making to much in 2 quarters and I was also told to file for PUA since I didnt qualify. Now mind you I’ve already waited 3 months for this determination that the state of Wisconsin failed to notify me and I was also told I wasnt able to file an appeal. Now I know right then and there something was wrong with the system. I filed for PUA in the first week of September. I was never told to stop filing for regular unemployment benefits every week. So I called a week after I filed and asked what I needed to do next. I was told to stop my application with PUA because I eas denied benefits but wasnt given a reason nor an appeal option. Yesterday I finally called the state legislature after waiting for any kind of input to my claims and I do believe my complaints and my soon to be future reports of my claims will be handled shortly. But I would love to know why the Secretary of Wisconsin was fired. Yes fired, for sitting on his hands and doing nothing to help the people of Wisconsin. And this has been noted. They also stated, people will get there money sooner or later. Wow. So much for doing your jobs. And caring about anyone else but your greedy ass selves. I do have another question as well since alot of us are to dumb or stupid to comprehend of what yo do when the government wants to fuck your ass with no lube. Why is it when the state of Ilinois sent me a request for the state of Wisconsin for my pay stubs for 2020 and 2019? Oh and my last job paystubs for 2 separate weeks has Covid-19 on them. Yeah that’s not gonna qualify you. Nor is having the sickness. Just a heads up. And remember, our government doesnt give half 2 shits about you or your family.

  4. Pingback: Claim-Filing questions in Wisconsin | Wisconsin Unemployment

  5. I was told several weeks ago that I was eligible for LWA. However, to this date have not received it.
    Could someone please reach out to me and let me know my status?
    Thank you,
    Kim Lloyd

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