UI benefits to Wyoming workers approach $500 million as state reaches anniversary of first CARES Act payments

CHEYENNE - One year ago, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS) began distributing payments to Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants through the CARES Act programs. These programs provided UI benefits to those who would not otherwise be eligible for regular UI. As these additional funds were being distributed, Wyoming was the only state to keep its Workforce Centers open throughout the pandemic, which allowed those who needed assistance to find job opportunities and access resources and information during the crisis.

"This has been a year of perseverance for our DWS staff, as this nearly half of a billion dollars in payments over the past year signifies," said DWS Director Robin Sessions Cooley. "As we see stronger job growth and steadier employment rates now, I am thankful for the hard work and commitment our staff made to Wyoming communities to help stabilize economic uncertainty and help those who lost their jobs pay for food and shelter."

The federal UI programs include Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provide benefits to self-employed persons, independent contractors, gig workers, and others who were not covered by regular UI; and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provide additional weeks of UI benefits to those who had exhausted their regular UI benefits.

In addition, the CARES Act provided supplemental payments to all UI recipients, including regular UI. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provided an additional $600 per week to all UI claimants who were receiving at least $1 in UI benefits of any kind.

Other programs were enacted by former President Trump and the U.S. Congress. President Trump created Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) as an extension of the expired FPUC, and Congress passed the Continued Assistance Act to extend FPUC, PEUC and PUA. Congress again passed legislation to extend the UI programs with the American Rescue Plan Act.

"These federal programs have been a lifeline for many Wyoming workers who would not otherwise have been eligible for UI benefits," said Holly McKamey Simoni, Workforce Programs Administrator for DWS. "The people who have received these funds have also helped their communities weather the pandemic. They have used these UI dollars to buy food and other necessities for their families, and much of that money has stayed in their local communities and helped keep the local economies healthy."

DWS issued the first payments for these federal programs on April 17, 2020. All UI benefits are administered by the UI division of DWS, though only the regular Wyoming UI benefits are paid from the Wyoming UI Fund. The federal programs initiated by the CARES Act and other legislation or executive orders are funded by the U.S. government.

Payments to claimants qualifying for the various programs from April 17, 2020, through April 16, 2021, are as follows:

Regular Wyoming $179,139,991.60
FPUC $233,893,617.01
PUA $25,435,361.05
PEUC $36,511,267.00
EB $602,155.00
LWA $16,034,370.00
Other federal benefits $2,513,864.86
Total $494,130,626.52

DWS continues to distribute UI payments to those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. To file a claim online, visit WYUI.wyo.gov. Claimants with questions about their accounts may call the UI call center at 307-473-3789.

Audio of Robin Sessions Cooley, DWS Director.

Audio of Holly McKamey Simoni, DWS Workforce Programs Administrator.

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