- Several states say the federal funding for President Donald Trump’s $US300 weekly unemployment benefit is being exhausted.
- Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, and Montana said this week that they would end their Lost Wages Assistance programs after distributing six weeks’ worth of benefits.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that every state that applied by September 10 would get enough funding to make $US300 weekly benefit payments for six weeks dating back to August 1, meaning last week would be the final one for eligible people.
- “People will someday get a really big check and not another one. That’s chaos in a really chaotic time that’s not very helpful to people,” said Michele Evermore, a national unemployment expert.
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At least 18 states are paying out President Donald Trump’s $US300 weekly unemployment aid. But several have already said they will end their programs as they exhaust federal funding after distributing six weeks’ worth of benefits to jobless people.
Officials in four states said on Wednesday and Thursday that money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was drying up after the benefit week that ended on September 5:
In Arizona, the Department of Economic Security has said federal benefit payments would likely end this week.
Normal state unemployment benefits, which typically cover about 30% to 50% of a person’s past wages, will continue in states where the Lost Wages Assistance program expires.
A FEMA representative told Business Insider that the federal government had distributed $US30 billion to 48 states as well as Guam and the District of Columbia and that it would make six weeks’ worth of benefit funding available for other states still getting their programs off the ground.
“Regardless of where the states and territories are in their process to receive and distribute the FEMA funding, FEMA will fund six weeks in $US300 supplemental unemployment benefits to every state and territory that has applied for this assistance by September 10,” the representative said.
The representative said the payments would be dated back to August 1, meaning last week would be the end of the program for approved states.
Michele Evermore, an unemployment expert at the National Employment Law Project, said the six-week benefit limit would likely ensure that states can tap into the disaster-relief funding to aid their unemployed residents.
“This should be comforting to people in states that have been slower to get the system set up,” Evermore told Business Insider. “Lack of certainty is especially hard on unemployed folks these days.”
But Evermore said the abrupt cutoff as states get their programs up and running could still heighten uncertainty among unemployed people during the pandemic.
“The farther down you are on the income scale, the more stability and planning you need in life,” Evermore said. “So here, people will someday get a really big check and not another one. That’s chaos in a really chaotic time that’s not very helpful to people.”
Last month, Trump signed an executive order to implement a federal unemployment-aid program after the $US600 weekly benefit expired at the end of July. It authorised $US44 billion in disaster-relief aid from FEMA to be used to fund unemployment benefits.
It was originally designed to boost unemployment payments to $US400, but after many state officials said they couldn’t afford to pay their $US100 share, the Trump administration revised its guidelines to make that portion optional. At least four states are paying out the full amount: Kentucky, Montana, West Virginia, and Kansas.
Evermore and Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, projected last month that the aid would be enough for six weeks.
Evermore described the program as “too little, too short, and too late.”
“This was in no way a substitute for an actual extension,” Evermore said.
Logistical hurdles caused delays for states in starting their assistance programs. Florida and California were expected to distribute aid this week, officials in those states have said, while New York is set to start distributing the $US300 payments next week.
Nearly 29 million people across the US are collecting unemployment benefits, according to the Labour Department. Congress still has not agreed on a federal unemployment extension, with Republicans and Democrats fiercely disagreeing on the amount.