A program to get $300 more a week for unemployed workers in Washington state has been approved, but not everyone out of a job will qualify.
The Lost Wages Assistance program applies to three weeks, from July 26 to Aug. 15. People who were filing for unemployment benefits during that time after losing work due to COVID-19 will get retroactive payments of $300 for each of the three weeks.
To get this new money, unemployed workers, except for those on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, will have to self-certify that they're unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. People on PUA have already been doing this.
“That means a lot of people are going to be cut out,” Anne Paxton with the Unemployment Law Project said of the criterion.
“My first instinct was to be skeptical, I think, just because I know that they also struggled to implement the CARES Act,” Erin Wolf said of the LWA program.
She’s doubtful it will roll out smoothly because she’s been through too many challenges getting her own payments after losing her job as an event technician at a local hotel. After waiting, she got several weeks of back pay in May.
“Not even 24 hours later, I went back into adjudication for ID verification,” she said.
When she finally got through to someone on the phones at the Employment Security Department, she was told they would get to her.
“I was essentially told to just sit and wait that they would get to it when they got to it,” she said. “I asked for a timeline, and they didn’t know.”
Wolf is still waiting for about 10 weeks’ worth of pay. She has started a new job, but it pays less than her old one.
Paxton is concerned about Wolf’s case and those of many others. She, too, is skeptical about the ESD’s ability to implement the new retroactive payments.
“Just what you would consider to be average challenges for any IT system have seemed to be insurmountable problems at ESD over the course of this pandemic,” she said. “We’re not confident based on what we’ve seen that their IT vendor is able to gear up very quickly.”
And she said, there’s another potential problem.
“The source of the funding is very dicey because it’s coming from FEMA, and it’s from the Disaster Relief Fund,” she said. “We have wildfires in California. We have hurricanes hitting Texas and Louisiana. … it’s likely that money is going to be drawn down.”
As the ESD works on getting this program up and running, Wolf is hoping someone there is looking at her case.
“I think a lot of people are just feeling frustrated by how in the dark we are,” she said.
The ESD has not yet given a timeline for when this new system is expected to be set up or when people might be able to get these payments.
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