More help may be on the way to some jobless Nevadans.
Nevada’s state unemployment agency announced Tuesday it will apply for the $300-a-week federal supplemental payment for jobless residents.
The money is made available by President Donald Trump’s Aug. 8 executive action — creating the Lost Wages Assistance program — that gives state unemployment agencies federal funds to pay jobless workers an extra $300 a week in benefits through a $44 billion grant agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. States are able to contribute an additional $100 weekly payment.
Elisa Cafferata, acting director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said in a statement the agency “welcomes any additional federal funding to assist Nevadans facing unemployment as a result of COVID-19.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak said he authorized DETR to apply for the LWA program because it’s “the only option for additional federal assistance that is currently available.”
“I want to do everything I can to ensure Nevadans get much needed help with unemployment benefits during this historically difficult time,” Sisolak said in a statement.
Up to six weeks
States are initially approved for three weeks’ worth of benefits upon approval, and funds are retroactive to Aug. 1, according to DETR. Additional approvals are on a weekly basis depending on the balance of FEMA’s $44 billion disaster relief funds.
The payments are subject to a federal income tax.
Citing the state’s budget constraints, DETR said it does not anticipate contributing an additional $100 per week.
The agency added that it could take up to six weeks after FEMA approves Nevada’s application before eligible claimants could see payments.
Cafferata said there are concerns that under current U.S. Department of Labor guidance, not everyone who already filed for unemployment will be eligible for this LWA benefit.
One significant exception is that filers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits and are enrolled in state extended benefits program are not eligible to receive LWA funds, according to Labor Department guidelines.
Additional guidelines released Aug. 17 by the Labor Department explain that states must contact individuals who are eligible for LWA. Claimants who are eligible are those whose weekly benefit amount is at least $100.
Cafferata previously said rolling out yet another federal program would present new costs and require time.
“It would take time to implement this and this would be a different program with yet again different rules,” Cafferata told the Review-Journal last week.
As of Tuesday, 30 states have been approved by FEMA.
Trump signed an executive order and a series of memorandums this month to create the program after ongoing negotiations in Congress stalled over extending a now-defunct federal provision paying an extra $600 per week in benefits.
“We remain hopeful that Congress and the White House will reach a consensus on a longer-term solution that will assist more Nevadans during this difficult time,” Cafferata said in Tuesday’s statement.
Dai Green, a bartender, relied on the additional $600 payment, on top of her $250 weekly state benefits, to pay for rent, groceries and bills. The supplemental program called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ended in Nevada on July 25.
She said her employer, a bar, asked Green and other colleagues to return to work days before Sisolak’s July 9 bar closure order, which directed bars that don’t serve food to close in Clark and Washoe counties because of surging COVID-19 cases.
The single mother of four said she has been working odd jobs in the horror film industry with writing gigs to supplement her state benefit income, but “it’s simply not enough to float on.”
Green said she isn’t optimistic that Congress will reach another funding round, though the $300 per week would be helpful to get caught up on bills.
“But there is no sight on the long-term strategy,” she said. “Unless there’s more noise made, I think we’re just going to be forgotten about.”