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Some workers to receive extra $300 in weekly unemployment assistance for limited time
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Some workers to receive extra $300 in weekly unemployment assistance for limited time

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Several storefronts are seen in downtown Casper on April 13. The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services will distribute an additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits to qualifying claimants retroactively through Sept. 5

The federal government will temporarily extend $300 a week in supplemental payments to some unemployed workers in Wyoming. That sum will come in addition to the unemployment insurance benefits already received by workers across the state shut out of the job market by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up until the end of July, Wyoming’s unemployed received a $600 weekly bonus payment in their unemployment check, thanks to the federal government’s $2.2 trillion stimulus plan, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. But that program expired in July.

A new program — funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and administered by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services — is the result of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in August. The order sought to partially restore the expired supplemental unemployment benefits to the country’s jobless.

FEMA provided Workforce Services with necessary details about the lost wages assistance program and pre-approved three weeks of payments on Wednesday. Workforce Services began distributing the relief from the temporary program on Friday.

The limited assistance program will extend a bonus $300 a week to eligible unemployed individuals for a period of up to six weeks stretching from August to early September. But the program technically ended Sept. 6, according to Workforce Services. Qualifying claimants will be paid retroactively for the additional weeks “as long as FEMA funds remain available,” according to Workforce Services.

“The executive order is another system to augment the unemployment insurance payment,” said Ty Stockton, communications manager for Workforce Services. “It’s not meant to replace the paycheck completely, but at least provide some extra assistance on top of the unemployment insurance payment.”

The president’s new directive sought to provide workers receiving unemployment benefits with an extra $300 payment each week. However, he asked states to chip in an additional $100 per week to bring the total bonus payment to $400.

But Workforce Services will not be providing the additional $100 a week, as initially proposed by the president.

“It’s just the $300,” Stockton said. “The president’s order made (the extra $100) a possibility if states were able to. A lot of states are facing budget crises though and Wyoming’s not alone on that.”

To receive the additional funding, an applicant must have received at least $100 in Wyoming unemployment insurance payments within the qualifying period and must have lost a job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants would need to apply for the first three-week period and then apply for the remaining periods on a weekly basis.

“The requirements of the (Lost Wages Assistance) payments differ from the requirements the (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation) carried,” said Holly McKamey Simoni, a workforce programs administrator.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation refers to the former $600 a week supplemental unemployment payments.

“Not everyone who is receiving unemployment insurance benefits will receive (Lost Wages Assistance) payments,” Simoni added. “The program is not designed to be a long-term solution, either, but please be assured that Department of Workforce Services will continue to apply for additional weeks of funding as long as the program remains viable.”

Unemployed individuals already receiving benefits will not see that relief interrupted. Other aid programs including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will continue through Dec. 26.

Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry at @camillereports

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Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Camille Erickson covers the state's energy industries. She received her master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Before moving to Casper in 2019, she reported on business and labor in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington.

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