IDAHO — When the extra $600 per week compensation program expired on July 31, Idahoans who had become unemployed due to COVID-19 underwent a significant cut to their weekly income.
Now, after weeks of uncertainty, a new lifeline is on the horizon for this population.
Idaho News 6's Rebound reporter Madeline White spoke with Jani Revier, Director of the Idaho Department of Labor, about how the Lost Wages Assistance Program is putting FEMA disaster money into the hands of some Idahoans -- starting this week.
“The payment processer ran last night," said Revier on Tuesday.
Under President Donald Trump’s supplemental aid plan, the program will distribute $300 per week to eligible Idahoans.
“We say usually it’s about three days before someone will receive the payment in their account," said Revier.
With 45,000 people currently seeking work, Idaho’s unemployment rate is now at about 5%. But this program will only apply to those who are getting a weekly benefit amount of $100 or more — and who can self-certify they’re on unemployment benefits because of the coronavirus, which Revier estimates is around 30,000 Idahoans.
“If someone has ever answered ‘Yes, that [they] are unemployed due to COVID-19,' then they don’t need to take any other action," said Revier. She added, “Payment will not occur until they do respond to that question.”
In Facebook groups and beyond, many Idahoans have spent weeks wondering when this supplement would come.
“The last few weeks we’ve been working on programming changes so that we can implement the program in our system," said Revier.
As we reported Monday, scheduled eviction hearings in Idaho have risen significantly in the past few weeks, indicating a population that is struggling. Considering that, the program is a welcome lifeline for those who might be struggling.
“I think that this program is intended to be a bridge," said Revier.
But don’t get too comfortable: the extra cash could be gone before you know it.
“Governor Little has said that he will -- he wants the state to apply for five weeks worth of money," said Revier.
The first payable week is retroactive to August 1, but the first payment claimants will see will only be for $900.
“This initial payment’s going to be for the first three weeks of the program, and then we are going to re-evaluate and make sure we still have enough money and pay the fourth week," said Revier. "There’s a lot of uncertainty how long the program will actually last.”
Unfortunately, Revier says those with "pending issues stopping payment" may not get paid, if they do not have their issue adjudicated in time before the money runs out.
“If that issue is not resolved until after the program ends, then, um, there is no mechanism to make sure that they get that funding."
More details for the program can be found here.
Revier says she is in the process of hiring more adjudicators, which will hopefully help in getting claimants' issues investigated more rapidly.
Governor Little said Tuesday that he's also looking to use $15 million of federal coronavirus relief money, to make sure the $300 per week grant applies to those receiving less than $100 in weekly state unemployment benefits.