The Center Square
Tennessee will apply for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide an additional $300 weekly unemployment benefit to eligible claimants, Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord said Tuesday.
The state will submit the application by the end of the week, McCord said. If approved, the federal grant will fund a weekly $300 Lost Wages Assistance payment in addition to existing weekly state unemployment benefits. Payments of the new benefit will be retroactive to Aug. 1.
“Since we learned of this program, we’ve been working on this application in anticipation of this decision,” McCord said Tuesday during a news briefing at the state Capitol. “We’ll be submitting our application as early as tomorrow, but certainly by the end of the week.”
Announced by President Donald Trump on Aug. 1, the federal grant program allows an additional $400 in unemployment insurance for eligible claimants. One quarter of the benefit must be provided by the participating state. According to federal guidance, the required state match may be counted from existing state unemployment benefits. Thus, Tennessee claimants will see an additional $300 to their weekly benefit payment.
The department is working to build a new program within the existing computer system to implement and pay the new benefit as soon as possible once the grant is approved by FEMA.
Federal grant rules require claimants to be receiving at least $100 in state or federal unemployment benefits each week to be eligible. There is no application process for the new benefit: the department will distribute additional funds with claimants’ weekly payments.
“We are going to implement this as fast as we possibly can,” McCord said. “Over the last five months, we’ve created three new unemployment systems, and we’ll create a fourth. It will run through the same website, through the same interface as the other systems.”
The Lost Wages Assistance benefit is a finite amount of funding. Once the federal grant funding is exhausted, the benefit will end. If Congress takes action to provide additional unemployment benefits, Lost Wages Assistance will end. Grant funds are allowed to be distributed through Dec. 26, but based on state participation in the federal grant, it could last for only five or six weeks.