Unemployment Benefit Calculator - Lost Wages Assistance (LWA)

Created by Jasmine J Mah and Tibor Pal, PhD candidate
Last updated: Apr 06, 2022

Last update on October 31, 2020

While the unemployment rate has been following a steadily downward tendency since its 14.7 percent historical record in April, its current level of 8.4 percent is still close to the Global Financial Crisis peak of 10 percent. Moreover, the outlook is particularly gloomy considering the exceptional drop of 31.7 percent in the economic output during the second quarter of 2020.

Since the end of July, the $600 weekly unemployment benefit from the CARES Act has ceased. Despite the positive effect of such economic relief (see for example the article by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco), neither the HEROES Act nor the HEALS Act, which would have extended unemployment benefits, were passed by Congress before the August 7, 2020 deadline for the Congress summer recess.

On August 8, 2020, as a temporary feasible alternative, the Trump administration issued an Presidential Memorandum authorizing FEMA to distribute $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for weekly payments of $300 (plus a statutory requirement of $100 state contribution) called Lost Wages Assistance (LWA). This payment is retroactive to the week ending August 1, 2020, right after the $600 FPUC benefit from the CARES Act ends.

Our calculator helps with the crucial questions:

  • What are the eligibility requirements for receiving LWA?
  • How much will I receive per week?
  • How long will the $44 billion fund last?

What does the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program provide?

The Lost Wages Assistance stipulates a total of $400 per week for those receiving unemployment benefits, retroactive to the week ending August 1, 2020. Due to statutory requirement, each state is required to contribute 25% of the relief payment, so the federal contribution is $300 and states are required to contribute $100.

However, since most states do not have surplus funds during this dire time, states are allowed to count payments from regular state unemployment insurance (UI) and other relief programs towards the $100 state contribution in order to qualify for LWA.

This means that, depending on your state, you will most likely receive $300 in addition to your base UI payment amount. At the time of writing, only three states (Montana, Kentucky, and West Virginia) have confirmed they will contribute an additional $100 for a total of $400 over existing benefits. All states have been approved, with the exception of South Dakota, which has declined to enter the program citing sufficient economic recovery.


The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program will operate until any of the below conditions prevail.

  1. FEMA has expended $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF).
  2. The remaining DRF balance reaches the minimum of $25 billion.
  3. Enactment of legislation providing supplemental Federal unemployment compensation, or similar compensation, for unemployed or partially employed individuals due to COVID-19.
  4. The program reaches the end date of December 27, 2020.

Due to the limited funds, this program is usefully considered temporary until another program is able to take its place or more funds are made available.


To be eligible for the benefit of Lost Wages Assistance (LWA), you must receive at least $100 per week (as of Aug. 1, 2020) of any of the following benefits:

  • Regular unemployment insurance from your state
  • Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE)
  • Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), or DUA in Unemployment Benefits Services (UBS)
  • Extended Benefits (EB)
  • Shared Work
  • Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA)

When submitting your payment request, you must certify that you are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

How does the calculator work?

The base state unemployment insurance (UI) is estimated for each state based on your annual salary, number of dependents and a simplified version of each state's calculation. This will differ from the actual amount you receive because the actual calculations are more complex and most are based on quarterly earnings.

We based our estimation of how long the FEMA fund will last on the upper limit of $44 billion and the currently available data of Weekly Claims Report. Since the vast majority of weeks claimed are eligible for compensation, the measure provides a solid base for the estimation.

$44 billion / (28 million claims per week * $300) = 5.23 weeks

The actual number of weeks that the fund will last is not exact and may vary by a week or so, as:

  • There may be differences in distribution of funds between states which are approved at different times.
  • The number of people claiming unemployment benefits is on a downward trend over time.


Do I qualify for LWA if I started claiming benefits after August 1, 2020?

Yes. The U.S. Department of Labour confirmed that if you apply for unemployment benefit programs while funds are still available and the program is still running, you may qualify for Lost Wages Assistance.

If you haven't yet applied for unemployment benefits but think you may be eligible, you should apply as soon as possible because Lost Wages Assistance will no longer be offered after the program terminates (for example, due to the $44 billion fund running out).

Do I have to fill an application to receive Lost Wages Assistance?

No. However, on your weekly payment requests, you will have to confirm that you are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Jasmine J Mah and Tibor Pal, PhD candidate
On August 8, 2020, the Trump administration authorized a $44 billion distribution for weekly payments of $300 (plus a statutory requirement of $100 state contribution) labeled as Lost Wages Assistance (LWA).
Annual salary
I used to earn
$ / wk
Start date
Unemployment Benefit Summary
My state benefit (UI)
$ / wk
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA)
$ / wk
My maximum weekly benefit
$ / wk
FEMA budget
How long can LWA last (National average estimate)?
In Alabama, the LWA payments are BEING PAID (payments start from 09/03/2020 according to state announcements).
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