By: Michael S. Moore and Katherine C. Campbell
On Wednesday, Governor Hutchinson announced that Arkansas will submit an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), paving the way for Arkansans to receive an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits through the end of the year. The state legislature approved the application on August 18, but it still needs to go through the legislative council for final approval. And FEMA must approve the application before any supplemental benefit payments can be made.
The CARES Act, passed in March, provided for a $600 weekly supplement for anyone receiving unemployment payments. Those supplemental payments ended at the end of July. In response, on August 8, 2020, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO) seeking to extend those supplemental unemployment payments.
The EO provides authority for up to an additional $400 per week through December or until funds are depleted. The EO provides funding through FEMA with a state match of 25 percent. In other words, $300 would come from FEMA and $100 would come from the states. DOL recently has clarified that states may count funds that are already used to provide traditional state unemployment benefits toward the state match, which is the approach Arkansas has chosen to take. As a result, in Arkansas, claimants will receive their regular unemployment payment, plus the additional $300 supplement. The regular benefits may have to be “trued up” to reach the $100/week match.
The EO left it up to states to choose whether to adopt the new program, and states are required to apply for the federal assistance through FEMA. The federal funds will be provided by FEMA but administered by the states through a grant agreement with FEMA. The funds will be distributed by the states through the traditional UI system as a supplemental payment.
To be eligible, claimants must:
- Be eligible for a weekly benefit amount of $100 or greater and
- Certify that they are unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The supplemental benefit is available to claimants who receive regular unemployment assistance or unemployment benefits provided through the CARES Act. These supplemental benefits are retroactive to August 1.
Michael S. Moore is a partner in the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group with an emphasis on wage-and-hour collective action employment discrimination defense. He specializes in litigation of discrimination cases, wage-hour collective actions, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, FMLA and employee and supervisor training.
Katherine C. Campbell is an associate in the Litigation Practice Group at Friday, Eldredge & Clark. She serves as litigation counsel for individuals and businesses in complex business and commercial disputes including employment claims, collective action wage and hour claims, and breach of contract matters.
Disclaimer: The information included here is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for legal advice nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel. For more information or if you have further questions, please contact one of our Attorneys.