Gov. Doug Burgum has announced that North Dakota has applied to participate in the Lost Wages Assistance program created by President Donald Trump to ease the economic burden for those who have lost their employment because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, the president authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to spend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund in order to provide an additional $300 to $400 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits through the Lost Wages Assistance program. Wednesday, Job Service North Dakota submitted the state’s application to FEMA to participate in the program.
“This program will provide much-needed assistance to North Dakotans who are facing unemployment through no fault of their own,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful to President Trump for taking action to create this Lost Wages Assistance and provide immediate relief as Congress continues to work on further coronavirus aid.”
Claimants who are eligible for the program will receive an additional $300 federal contribution on top of their existing weekly unemployment benefit payment from the state, which averaged $474 in July – the fourth-highest average payment in the nation.
To access the federal funds, the program requires the state to provide a 25% match, which will come from North Dakota’s existing unemployment weekly benefit payment.
The payments will be made retroactively to claimants who were eligible during the first three weeks in August. That period followed the expiration of the $600-per-week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program at the end of July.
Burgum noted that unlike the FPUC program, the Lost Wages Assistance program limits eligibility only to those claimants who are unemployed specifically due to the pandemic and whose weekly benefit amount is $100 or more.
Based on those limitations and the amount of funding available nationwide, Job Service North Dakota estimates that approximately 17,600 claimants in North Dakota – about 41% of the current active claimant base – will receive the $300 benefit for three weeks before the funding is exhausted. Total payments are estimated to be $14.7 million, compared with $408 million that was paid out to North Dakotans through the FPUC program.
To be eligible for Lost Wages Assistance, workers must self-certify that they were unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the initial unemployment insurance claims process or their required weekly recertifications. Burgum noted that North Dakota also reinstated its work registration and search requirements at the end of July for those seeking unemployment, after having suspended them in March when the pandemic hit North Dakota.
Since the governor declared a state of emergency on March 13 in response to the coronavirus, North Dakota has paid out more than $730 million in unemployment benefits to more than 81,000 individuals.
Job Service North Dakota anticipates distributing the Lost Wages Assistance payments in early to mid-September.