Indiana has applied for the federal government’s Lost Wages Assistance program and hopes to begin delivering the $300 supplemental weekly payments to most people receiving unemployment benefits in the next month or so.
At least nine states have already been approved for the program announced earlier this month by President Donald Trump, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is administering the program. Trump created the program in an executive order after federal lawmakers failed to come to an agreement on a new pandemic aid program to replace the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.
The new payment replaces the $600-a-week unemployment supplement that expired last month and was not extended by Congress.
Indiana opted out of kicking in an extra $100 payment from already-allocated CARES Act funds or other sources of state funding after an “evaluation of our economic situation,” said Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne.
If approved, the $300 weekly payments will be retroactive to Aug. 1.
Those currently receiving less than $100 weekly in state or federal unemployment benefits will not qualify for the new payments. Payne said only a small percentage of the unemployed get less than $100 per week.
The $300 payments will more than double Indiana’s average $280 weekly unemployment payment, which has a maximum of $390 a week.
Indiana was paying unemployment benefits to about 330,000 people in late July, according to federal statistics.
An estimated 20 states have already applied for the program, and those that have applied are seeing quick approval, sometimes within a day. Indiana applied earlier this week, according to Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Payne said it would take Indiana an estimated two to four weeks after approval to get systems up and running before Hoosiers would start receiving checks.
The previous federal program that provided the $600 bonus payment was run through the U.S. Department of Labor. Because the new program is overseen by FEMA, a whole new system will need to be put in place.
“It’s going to take a little extra effort on our part in terms of moving staff to build a new system,” Payne said. “And that system requires us to look at some new infrastructure.”
The program allots $44 billion in total and is expected to last through Dec. 26, but it is likely funds will be used before then.
Payne warned “that money could go pretty quickly.”
FEMA has said the additional funding may last roughly five or six weeks depending on how many states participate.