State blames obsolete technology on delay in $300 weekly unemployment payments

A square tan and grey building
Department of Labor building in Juneau. (Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Obsolete technology has prevented the state government from distributing additional money to Alaskans who are unemployed due to COVID-19, according to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

“We’re having a problem with it,” Dunleavy said of the system. “It’s outdated. It’s outmoded. And, in the manner that the feds want us to distribute the money, it’s right now — it’s not working with the system.”

Dunleavy said the state is aiming to have an answer to the problem by Thursday or Friday. 

Dunleavy announced the state plan for the money on Aug. 13, shortly after President Trump announced the program. But residents are still waiting for the payments.

The Lost Wages Assistance program is intended to pay up $300 per week for a six-week period, for a total of $1,800, on top of regular unemployment insurance payments. 

The federal CARES Act provided an additional $600 per week for people who were unemployed due to the pandemic from early April until late July. 

The U.S. House passed a bill in May that would have extended the $600 weekly payments through January. In September, Senate Republicans proposed reducing the payments to $300 per week. But the Senate didn’t pass the proposal. And the two chambers haven’t agreed on a compromise.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.