State program gives unemployed a little more money
The Oregon Employment Department launched a program last week that allows workers laid off due to the pandemic to receive additional benefits, at least in the short term.
The Lost Wages Assistance Program (LWA) allows workers already receiving unemployment benefits to receive an additional $300 a week by self-certifying that they are receiving those benefits due to COVID-19 reasons. Self-certification is a requirement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for funding the program through the state.
"Claimants eligible for LWA can now self-certify for these benefits online, ensuring they'll receive LWA payments in the coming weeks," said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the OED. "After a stressful week for Oregonians, on top of nearly six months of stress and uncertainty, we are glad to have launched the program that will allow us to get these urgently-needed benefits out."
Oregonians automatically qualify for the LWA program if they received unemployment benefits from July 26 through Sept. 5 and self-certify that their unemployment is directly due to the pandemic. The LWA program is retroactive for claimants every seven days beginning on Aug. 1 and continues through the benefit week on Sept. 5.
According to an ODE release, individuals who became unemployed after the week ending Aug. 1 can only receive LWA benefits for weeks when they qualify for unemployment benefits and meet LWA eligibility requirements.
Claimants can self-certify for the LWA program by visiting https://bit.ly/2RvlvKs. Self-certification may soon also be possible via phone, but ODE officials are urging claimants to perform the task online to avoid long hold times and delays.
The ODE plans to start providing LWA funds to qualified Oregonians by the end of September. LWA payments are taxable under federal law, just like regular unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. If taxes are withheld from other benefits, they will also be withheld from the LWA benefits.
Claimants seeking more information can find it at https://unemployment.oregon.gov/contact-us or by calling 1-877-File-4-U (1-877-345-3484)
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