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Expansion of Unemployment Insurance: Changes under COVID-19

Lost Wages Assistance Program

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The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program provides an additional $300 in weekly benefits for Unemployment Insurance and PUA recipients in NYS. To qualify individuals must be eligible for NYS’s Unemployment or PUA benefits.

Description of Lost Wages Assistance


On August 8, 2020 President Trump issued an executive order indicating supplemental benefits of $400 to qualifying traditional UI beneficiaries, as well as PUA recipients. Known as the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA), the President authorized FEMA to use the Disaster Relief Fund to supplement the state’s unemployment benefits in accordance with the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act).


Originally the $400 LWA was contingent upon states funding 25% or $100 of the $400, but subsequently the U.S. Labor Department clarified that states could apply their state’s current unemployment benefits toward the 25% or $100 share. With this clarification NYS applied for the LWA grant and on August 23rd FEMA approved NYS for the LWA. This will allow NYS to provide an additional $300 per week on top of the state’s regular unemployment benefits to those unemployed due to COVID-19.


The New York State Department of Labor announced on September 10th that payments for LWA will begin the week of September 14th.


As of September 10th, FEMA has released funding for the first three weeks of LWA benefits to New York State, covering the benefit weeks ending August 2nd, August 9th, and August 16th. Additional disbursement will be made on a weekly basis to ensure that funding remains available for the states who apply for grant assistance. When the federal government makes funding available for additional weeks, the NYS DOL will notify recipients.

According to FEMA, funding for the LWA program will continue until any of the following occur:

  • The federal Disaster Relief Fund balance falls below $25 billion;
  • The $44 billion set aside for the LWA program is depleted;
  • Congress enacts a replacement unemployment relief program;
  • If none of the above scenarios occur before December 27, 2020, funding will terminate on that date


LWA is payable retroactively to eligible claimants beginning with the week ending August 1, 2020. However, if an individual becomes unemployed after the week ending August 1st, s/he may only receive LWA for weeks in which the individual qualifies for an underlying unemployment benefit and meets the eligibility requirements for LWA.


For an FAQ on the Lost Wages Assistance visit:
To learn of other states that have been approved for LWA visit:


Some experts question the legality of Trump’s EO. FEMA typically funds emergency responses to natural disasters, and states cannot typically pay Unemployment Insurance benefits that are not authorized by Congress.

Qualifying for Lost Wages Assistance

  • Must meet the requirements for the NYS’ unemployment or PUA benefit.
  • Must be currently eligible for at least $100 per week in
    • Unemployment Insurance
    • PUA
    • Extended Benefits, see below, (Expansion of Unemployment Insurance, Extended Benefits)
    • Short Term Compensation
    • Trade Readjustment Allowance
    • Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance program
    • NYS UI/PUA recipients meet this requirement, as minimum benefit amounts are above the $100 weekly benefit amount
  • While it is not a requirement that the individual lost his/her job due directly to COVID-19, the individual must be unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

For more information on Trade Readjustment Allowance, and the Self-Employment Assistance program, refer to Cash Benefits, Unemployment Insurance, Additional Benefits.

As additional information regarding qualifying for LWA is released, the Learning Center will update this material.

Certifying for Lost Wages Assistance


The NYS Department of Labor (DOL) estimates that up to 2.4 million New Yorkers may be eligible for Lost Wages Assistance. Approximately 2 million New Yorkers are pre-qualified and will receive payments starting next week. The remainder, roughly 435,000 New Yorkers, must submit an additional certification to qualify. The NYS Department of Labor (DOL) has e-mailed New Yorkers who are receiving UI benefits to inform them of their status. Individuals should be on the alert for these messages, and if additional certification is required to respond immediately.


Approximately 2 million UI/PUA recipients are pre-qualified for the LWA program because they indicated on their initial benefit application that their unemployment was connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. These claimants do not need to take any further action. They will receive the LWA payments starting the week of September 14th and will receive an e-mail and text message from DOL informing the they have pre-qualified for LWA.


Roughly 435,000 UI recipients will need to submit an additional certification confirming that their unemployment is related to COVID-19 to qualify for LWA benefits, as required by the federal government. These claimants can certify beginning Friday, September 11th either online or via phone.

  • Via Online: Claimants will receive a secure email from the DOL on September 11th, with a link to certify for LWA benefits.
  • Via Phone: Claimants can call 833-491-0632 to certify via an automated phone system.