Governor Tate Reeves announced on Thursday that he is planning for the state of Mississippi to apply for additional unemployment dollars through the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program that was enacted by President Donald Trump in a recent executive order using the Stafford Act as the enabling federal law.
Reeves directed the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to apply at this time.
This program is administered by states and territories in agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA is not responsible for administering payments to individuals. That function will lie with the state of Mississippi to ensure that those unemployment funds are distributed properly.
Reeves said there will be no need for the Legislature to return for any appropriation matters because the funding will be going through MDES.
FEMA is authorized to expend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for lost wages during the COVID-19 shutdowns.
If Mississippi is approved, individuals can receive a maximum of an additional $300 to regular unemployment benefits if they are eligible. Applicants also have to make at least $100 a week to be eligible.
No match from individual states is required for the route that Reeves has chosen to take, however some states may choose to match the $300 from the federal government with $100 from the state.
In Mississippi’s case, the state will leverage existing state funding that is being used to pay regular state unemployment benefits. According to FEMA this is allowable as “the state must demonstrate at the aggregate level that the total of its state-funded unemployment benefits to claimants receiving the lost wages supplement were at least 25 percent of the total lost wages assistance benefits paid in conjunction with all of the unemployment programs listed above.”
“We were assured that the $100 required match, because it’s a 75/25, can be covered by existing payments that are being paid to these individuals from state unemployment insurance,” said Reeves.
Those who were eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance aren’t automatically eligible for this new amount. Applicants have to have been laid off because of COVID-19.
“We do have to apply and get approved, it is not a done deal. We’re just announcing today that I have directed MDES to apply which we anticipate that we will be approved,” said Reeves.
Reeves said the decision not to enhance the program with the $100 state dollars came from a simple lack of funding. He said it would cost the state roughly $22 million weekly in order to pay out that amount, a number that Mississippi doesn’t have in extra funds.
Reeves said payments will be back dated to August 1.
According to the memorandum the program described shall be available for eligible people until the balance of the Disaster Relief Funds (DRF) reaches $25 billion or for weeks of unemployment ending not later than December 6, 2020, whichever occurs first, at which time the lost wages assistance program shall terminate.