$400-a-week unemployment extended for up to 6 weeks

GDOL PUA processing center (PNC file photo)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has extended its approval of President Trump’s new $400-a-week unemployment top-up program, for up to 6 weeks for participating states and territories.

The Lost Wages Assistance program — known as the LWA — is meant to top up existing claims for Americans receiving PUA after the $600 weekly FPUC bump expired at the end of July.

The President’s program is a $400 payment for three weeks of which the federal government (through FEMA) pays $300 and the local government pays for the remaining 25% — or $100 — per person, per week.

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Guam Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola says what was first just a three-week program has now been extended for up to six weeks IF governments can afford it.

“The two options are, of course, after you’ve expended your budget, which was our $22.6 million, if there’s enough money left over, then we can just submit another week, with the existing funding and they’ll just approve it. And, if you expend all your money, then on the fourth week, you need to submit a budget request and if they have additional funding, then they’ll fund you for your budget request for week 4, 5 and/or 6,” Dell’Isola said.

However, Guam would have to get through its full $22.6 million allotment first, before we’re approved for any more.

“I think we’ll be okay for the first three weeks. The fourth week was when we went into PCOR 1, so it’s going to jump dramatically,” Dell’Isola said.

He added: “I can’t tell you that we’re going to go forward up to 6 weeks, if we’re going to have to request for additional funding, because that means Guam has to put in additional funding. That means the Governor has to give her blessing.”

A major difference in this LWA program, compared to PUA or FPUC, is tht states, including Guam, are actually liable for all the overpayments. This means GovGuam has to dish out from its own coffers any fraudulent cases that get through the filters and screening. Nationwide, there have already been hundreds of millions of dollars lost in bogus unemployment claims.

Dell’Isola says that since July, 80% of daily claims on Guam have been fraudulent.

“I’m going to have to be very judicial and very thorough when we pay those claims out,” Dell’Isola said.

There’s still no timeline for when the LWA $400 top-up for at least the three weeks of July 26 through August 15th will be shelled out.

“This is not a PUA, this is not an FPUC. This is a third cog that can’t be mixed. And I’m asking my software vendor to program it in, but there are the additions, too. You have to make $100 of PUA to qualify, so not just the $1 from before. Plus, I have to keep the money separate and we have to pay separate, and you’re going to have to program that all in..,” Dell’Isola said.

An important note: you have to be making at least $100 in PUA payouts to qualify for the LWA.

Dell’Isola says his team is working to batch the next set of regular PUA unemployment payments tonight. That will cover clean claims up to August 10th.