Question: I am one of those who has been “pending” with state UI for months now. If I’m ever approved, will I get the federal benefits too, paid retroactively, even if those programs are done?
Answer: Yes and no, depending on the program.
Assuming that you are otherwise eligible and your unemployment compensation claim is ultimately approved, yes, you would receive $600 a week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation for your eligible weeks of unemployment before the program expired, Bill Kunstman, spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, said Friday.
FPUC was paid in Hawaii from early April through late July. You would be paid that “plus-up” retroactively for weeks you are deemed eligible for unemployment compensation during that period.
The answer is no, however, when it comes to the Lost Wages Assistance program, which will pay eligible claimants $300 a week through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Kunstman said. Claimants pending when the program ends won’t get the money later, he said.
“Individuals with pending issues preventing payment will not receive the additional $300 per week if they are allowed benefits after the program has ended. Unlike the FPUC program ($600 plus-up) that ended in July, LWA is a grant with a finite amount of funding. When FEMA exhausts its grant funding, it will no longer have the resources to provide LWA payments and the program will end,” according to a DLIR news release issued Thursday.
The U.S. Department of Labor also covers this question in a recent guidance letter (808ne.ws/uipl), which says that an individual whose eligibility for unemployment compensation is determined after LWA’s end date “is not entitled to supplemental lost wages assistance for weeks of unemployment occurring before the end date.”
More than 10,000 Hawaii Unemployment Insurance claims were pending as of Thursday, according to DLIR. That number does not include pending claims in the separate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program or UI or PUA claims that were denied but have been appealed and await a decision.
Hawaii has been approved for five weeks of Lost Wages Assistance, to be paid retroactively for the weeks ending Aug. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, the DLIR said. The state is applying for a sixth week, Kunstman said. If approved, it would be for the week ending Sept. 5. Payments are to begin processing in October.
The Washington Post reported Friday that FEMA has confirmed that states will be able to disperse LWA for no more than six weeks.
LWA will pay $300 a week to eligible claimants who have an unemployment compensation weekly benefit amount of at least $100 and certify their job loss is related to disruptions caused by COVID-19. Those with a WBA of less than $100 are excluded.
Kunstman emphasized the state of Hawaii is not allowed to use CARES Act funding or any local funding to supplement sub-$100 claimants to raise them to the minimum for inclusion in LWA, a fact that Kokua Line has previously reported.
He took issue with our recent summary of information from Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, based in Washington, D.C., who said it was possible for states to use state funds to retroactively raise claimants to at least $100 a week, making all eligible for LWA. Evermore was referring to a state raising its minimum weekly benefit amount for unemployment compensation, which would require changing state law — not to a temporary supplement.
Kunstman insisted we should have explained the complexity of the situation, lest readers mistakenly believe the executive branch could have taken unilateral action. We’ve quoted him on this subject before, including that any such change would involve the Legislature, but are happy to repeat the information.
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