Unemployed U.S. workers who are banking on an extra $300 in federal jobless aid will now receive up to six weeks of benefits, double the three weeks initially guaranteed by FEMA, the government agency overseeing the relief.
Shortly after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month authorizing the aid, FEMA said it was initially planning to provide three weeks of benefits. On Thursday, FEMA said it will provide payments “for a full six weeks,” based on current state spending rates as well as Department of Labor and state projections.
The extension of benefits means that the typical unemployed worker will receive a total of $1,800 in extra jobless benefits under President Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance plan, rather than $900. That’s still far less than the $600 in extra weekly benefits that millions of out-of-work adults had been receiving through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which expired at the end of July. Over that same six-week period, the CARES Act benefits would have paid $3,600 to each jobless worker.
More than a month after Mr. Trump signed the order, only 17 states are currently paying out the benefits, according to UnemploymentPUA.com, which tracks jobless benefits. FEMA said that 48 states, Guam and the District of Columbia have been approved for the payments. South Dakota declined to accept the funds, with its governor saying that most jobs lost during the pandemic have been recovered. Nevada is the sole state awaiting FEMA approval.
Running out of money
But it’s clear that even six weeks of $300 payments will go quickly. Two states, Montana and Texas, have already exhausted their six weeks of funding.
Overall, the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program is “insufficient,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.
“Indeed, LWA is already starting to run out in the 17 states that have managed to get payments out the door, and the deadlock in Congress will mean workers will soon have to manage on underlying benefits that average less than $300 per week,” Stettner said in an email.
Mr. Trump is funding the supplementary unemployment benefits through FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, which had $44 billion in available funds. The agency on Thursday said that to date it has distributed $30 billion through the LWA program. September 10 is the final day for states and territories to apply for assistance, according to FEMA.
“Regardless of where the states and territories are in their process to receive and distribute the FEMA funding, FEMA will fund six weeks in $300 supplemental unemployment benefits to every state and territory that has applied for this assistance by September 10,” an agency spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.
Just over 857,000 workers applied for first-time unemployment aid in the week ending September 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s up 20,000 from the week before, continuing last week’s trend of rising claims. On an adjusted basis, 884,000 people filed initial claims last week.
Overall, more than 29 million Americans are on unemployment, labor data show.
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