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Deadline this week to file for $300 aid

Benefits for lost jobs tied to virus by Andrew Moreau | September 24, 2020 at 2:04 a.m.
People wait in line to file for unemployment Friday, May 22, 2020, at the Little Rock office of the state Division of Workforce Services. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Arkansans who received state-paid unemployment benefits in August have until Friday to declare their eligibility for a $300 weekly supplemental payment funded by the federal government.

Jobless workers who believe that they are eligible for the payment must certify that they lost their jobs because of the covid-19 pandemic, according to Commerce Secretary Mike Preston. Friday is the last day to make that certification, which can be done through the state Department of Workforce Services website.

"They can go in and certify that it was covid-related, and they can go ahead and receive the $300," Preston said Wednesday. "But they have to do that by this Friday."

Arkansas has been given $79 million under the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, which provides the $300 weekly supplement that is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

State officials estimate that the federal funding will run dry after this week, and Preston said about $47 million has been paid out so far to jobless workers in Arkansas.

Arkansans who were unemployed for the weeks ending Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15 and lost their jobs because of the pandemic would receive a total of $900 under the FEMA program.

"Those people will get a total of $900, but it comes in three payments of $300," Preston said.

Workforce Services, which manages unemployment filings and benefits, is making the $300 supplemental payments to jobless workers immediately, Preston said. "We are doing payments every night for those who have certified," he added.

Arkansas and other states participating in the FEMA program are required to make a 25% match to receive federal funds.

After Friday's deadline, state officials will convene to determine whether Arkansas has the resources to continue meeting the match and apply for more supplemental benefits from FEMA, Preston said.

"We don't know yet. We have to have all the numbers to make a better-informed decision about reapplying," Preston said.

The Lost Wages Assistance program was established by an executive order from President Donald Trump. FEMA was ordered to use $44 billion to supply states with funding to provide an added weekly payment of $300 to workers tossed off the job by the pandemic.

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