Support Local Journalism


Montana will soon start making additional $400 weekly unemployment payments, retroactive to Aug. 1, for those who qualify.

On Wednesday the state Department of Labor and Industry said the Federal Emergency Management Administration approved its application for an additional $300 in unemployment payments.

FEMA disaster relief funds will pay for $300 under the Lost Wages Assistance Payments grant, and the state will pick up the additional $100. The state’s share will be paid out of the $1.25 billion it received from the federal CARES Act.

The program was announced by President Donald Trump earlier this month after the previous $600 weekly federal payments expired at the end of July. The U.S. Senate has stalled on passing a coronavirus relief package that could have included an extension of the federal payments.

The federal payments are in addition to state unemployment benefits, which are just a fraction of a person’s lost wages.

In some cases the additional federal money meant people earned more while on unemployment than working, which raised concerns among some Republicans in Congress who said the money could incentivize people not to return to work.

The labor department said Montana is the eighth state to receive approval for the Lost Wage Assistance Payments grant and is the only state to apply for the full amount.

To qualify for the additional federal payments, people must self-certify they are fully or partially unemployed because of a situation caused by COVID-19.

How long the payments last is dependent on the memorandum issued by Trump and how long FEMA has funding. Congress could also pass another program similar to the previous $600 payments. The labor department said in a press release the $400 Lost Wages Assistance payment cannot last longer than Dec. 27, however.

Between Aug. 10-14, the labor department paid out $11 million in unemployment benefits over 28,555 payments. Aug. 3-7 it paid $17.6 million over 35,696 payments.

July 20-24, the last full week of the $600 additional federal payments, the state paid out $41 million over 42,102 payments.

Payments do not equal individuals filing claims, as one person may have two payments within a period or one payment for two weeks’ benefits.

The $600 weekly payments accounted for $549 million in what Montana had paid out by the end of July in unemployment benefits. That’s a little more than 70% of the total in unemployment benefits that had been paid to Montanans at that point, which was about $769.6 million.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.