Louisiana Workforce Commission breaks down some confusion about Lost Wages Assistance benefits

Updated: Sep. 3, 2020 at 9:25 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Lost Wages Assistance program has stirred up some confusion when it comes to additional unemployment benefits. The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) explains some of that confusion comes from the way the federal government put the program in place.

“This is the first time in my life I’ve been unemployed. I started working on my 15th birthday actually,” said Amie Leblanc, a resident of Denham Springs.

Leblanc is a former paralegal. She was laid off right before the pandemic, but can’t get back into the workforce just yet because her husband is at high risk for COVID-19.

She applied for unemployment benefits around May.

“I was fortunate in the beginning that when I applied, I was approved pretty quickly,” said Leblanc.

She, like many others, received the extra $600 weekly benefits under the CARES Act. Then, that dried up at the end of July and some panic set in.

“So I was really nervous, stressed… looking for resources,” she said.

Amid the debates in Congress for another financial solution during the pandemic, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to create Lost Wages Assistance.

“Of course, there have been days where it looks hopeful and we might get something and then, no, not so much, and then of course when the president came out and signed the executive order, like many people, I was very relieved,” said Leblanc.

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With the relief came more confusion though.

This additional $300 in lost wages comes from FEMA and goes to those who get more than $100 in current unemployment. LWC officials say that’s because of the way the program is set up; it’s inconsistent.

“Your payments may not show up on the same date every day. That is just how this works. Lost Wages Assistance is different,” said Ava Dejoie, LWC secretary.

She says callers often ask about when and where they will see their money drop into their account. The secretary says the process is not as simple as the previous coronavirus relief bill.

“Check with your financial institution, check with your bank,” said Dejoie. “And that is simply from the fact that this is not our regular unemployment system that is paying these funds, even though it is running through our agency.”

She also says this is a temporary fix.

“And it’s 44 billion for all states across the country, so that 44 billion is not going to last very long,” she said.

They estimate Lost Wages Assistance will last about six weeks. Louisiana is already in week four.

The program issued back pay for the weeks of Aug. 1, 8, 15 and 22. Also, more funding has been requested for the week of Aug. 29.

Dejoie says Governor John Bel Edwards did write to the president, asking him to reconsider the $100 threshold for this program, but for now, that has not changed as she waits for Congress to act on a more long-term solution.

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