Many people in Wisconsin left jobless due to the coronavirus pandemic welcomed the recent news they’ll receive an extra $300 in weekly benefits. But now they’re being warned they may have to repay the money should Congress pass legislation that overlaps with the benefits.
On September 1, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Pete Gaynor approved Wisconsin for a grant under President Donald Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance program, according to a press release. The grant allowed for an additional $300 per week on top of current unemployment payments. Trump had made $44 billion available from FEMA’s disaster relief fund to help citizens who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic. On September 1, “the state of Wisconsin agreed to administer a lost wages program for its citizens who are unemployed due to COVID-19,” the release said.
In a screenshot shared by USA Today, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) website notes that the payments may need to be paid back to Wisconsin unemployment should Congress pass a new plan. “Lost Work Assistance benefits must be paid back to Wisconsin Unemployment if another pandemic program is enacted by congress to replace the Lost Work Assistance program, or if you are deemed ineligible for the payments after payment is made,” the site says.
USA Today reported that a DWD spokesperson said the agency was following FEMA guidelines, but the department doesn’t expect that it will need to ask people to return the money. If Congress does pass legislation, the department doesn’t think it will overlap and instead believes it will start after the program expires. According to USA Today, FEMA said that it offers funding while states manage the program.
The Lost Wages Assistance page on the DWD site says that the benefits can be claimed by people who are “unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of COVID-19,” and the first payable week was made retroactive to the week ending August 1. When the benefit will end is yet to be determined as FEMA “allotted a three-week allocation per state, with additional weeks determined on a weekly basis thereafter.”
The website also points out that the maximum weekly unemployment in the state is $370, allowing residents who qualify for Lost Wages Assistance benefits to nearly double their income from unemployment to $670.
Newsweek reached out to contacts at the Wisconsin DWD and US Department of Labor but did not receive a response in time for publication.