The money is from a $44 billion appropriation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support a Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. The program was created by President Donald Trump through an executive order.
The biggest bump anyone in Oklahoma will see in a weekly check will be $300 (before taxes), as Oklahoma will provide its required match using money already included in an individual’s weekly payment from his or her state unemployment insurance account.
Any person with a weekly unemployment benefit of less than $100 won’t qualify to receive the additional help, a technicality analysts said would leave many low-wage earners out in the cold.
State officials have said they don’t expect that will be an issue for most people drawing assistance in Oklahoma.
On Friday, Shelley Zumwalt, interim director of the OESC, said it will take time for the agency to create a system claimants can use to access that help, but added the agency is working as quickly as it can to get it established.
Zumwalt said the money Oklahoma disburses for LWA must be kept separate from the trust fund dollars used to fund its unemployment insurance program, noting that eligibility requirements also are entirely different.
“The only thing that benefit has in common with the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Benefit (the CARES Act-provided $600 a week) is that they both have two zeros in them,” she said. “It is a completely new compensation category, a completely new denomination and a completely new funding category — a lot more complicated than people realize.”
Once the system is set up, the benefit will be retroactive to Aug. 1.
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