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President Trump took executive action to extend the benefit after an earlier federal program that provided $600 a week lapsed.
States are telling unemployed people that an extra $300 a week unemployment payment that they have been receiving under a federally-funded program is coming to a close after six weeks, with the benefit extending only through the period ending Sept. 5.
Missouri, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas are among the states that have notified residents that the extra benefit, paid on top of standard state unemployment benefits, is ending. The states say that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has told them that the money that was made available for the payments is running out.
“Some tough news for some,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Friday.
The governor said Louisiana’s workforce commission on Friday received funding to pay the benefit through the week ending Aug. 29 and would process payments for that week immediately and that those funds should start showing up in people's accounts on Monday. He also said the state has requested funding for the week ending Sept. 5.
“We don't yet have it,” he said. “We will be getting that funding we have been assured and as soon as we get it, we will be getting those payments out as well.”
Regardless of where a state is in the process to receive and distribute the additional unemployment insurance funding—available under what’s been dubbed the lost wages assistance program—FEMA will provide funding for six weeks of the supplemental benefit to every state that applied for it by Sept. 10, an agency spokesperson said on Friday. FEMA has been part of this program because it was funded with $44 billion of disaster relief money.
Every state except South Dakota applied for the program and some states have been able to get the money out to unemployed people who are eligible faster than others. As of Thursday, CNBC estimated that 20 states had begun sending out payments. FEMA said on Friday that, to date, over $30 billion has been distributed to the 48 states.
The coronavirus pandemic brought on millions of job losses. Jobs figures have improved in recent weeks, but the nation’s unemployment rate was still around 8.4% in August and over 884,000 people filed new claims for state unemployment benefits for the week ending Sept. 5, according to seasonally adjusted Labor Department data released on Thursday. Nearly 30 million people claimed some form of unemployment benefits for the week ending Aug. 22, the department said.
To help people weather the sharp downturn the virus caused across a wide range of industries, Congress in March approved legislation that provided an additional $600 a week unemployment benefit to out-of-work Americans. But that benefit expired at the end of July.
Since then, Democrats and Republicans have been unable to reach agreement on a new coronavirus relief bill that might extend bolstered unemployment benefits. In the meantime, President Trump signed a directive in August to provide the $300 a week payment.
Unemployment benefit levels vary by state. In April 2020, average standard weekly unemployment benefits were about $333 nationwide, but ranged from a low of $101 in Oklahoma to $531 in Massachusetts, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.
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