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Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the State has submitted a grant application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin the process of implementing the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program.
Authorized by President Trump, LWA will provide unemployment claimants with an additional $300 per week in benefits starting with weeks beginning on or after Aug. 1, 2020 and ending no later than Dec. 27, 2020.
“As we are months ahead of other states in our recovery and Oklahoma is open for business, many Oklahomans have returned to work or are in training to take on a new career. However, we also want to continue to help those who are still working to secure employment,” said Gov Stitt. “The teams at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management have submitted the FEMA grant application to begin the process to allow the state to provide $300 in weekly benefits under the Lost Wages Assistance program announced by President Trump.”
Once approved, FEMA will fund the $300 per week benefit and Oklahoma will fulfill the 25 percent state match through funding that is already paid out to claimants in regular unemployment benefits.
“With the FEMA application submitted, we will now wait to hear back on the application and begin the process of executing on the federal benefit amount for eligible claimants,” said OESC Interim Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt. “Working with legacy technology to implement this benefit will hinder the agency’s ability to make quick changes to the system, but our team will work as fast as possible given the constraints that exist dealing with 40-year-old technology. Regardless of the timeline, the benefit will be retroactive to Aug. 1, and all eligible claimants will receive back pay to that date once changes to the system have been put into production.”
“This process has been a great example of teamwork and coordination between state agencies, and we are pleased to be able to do our part to help deliver the Lost Wages Assistance to Oklahomans,” said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Mark Gower. “Our Department has built a great working relationship with FEMA over the years, which should be a benefit moving forward with this new federal program.”
In order to qualify for LWA benefits, Oklahomans will be required to provide proof they are unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of COVID-19, and the State must confirm that the individual is receiving at least $100 of underlying unemployment benefits from OESC.