$300 weekly unemployment benefits: when do they start?
President Donald Trump issued an executive order on 8 August which included a $300 enhanced payment in unemployment benefits.
On 8 August, U.S. President Trump signed an executive memorandum, freeing up $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Four states - Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico have already requested grants to take part in the program which will give a weekly a $300 enhanced unemployment payment to those who have lost their job or are out of work as a result of the crisis. FEMA however, is not responsible for issuing payments directly to individuals; the states and territories will distribute the funds through their own unemployment insurance systems, as a supplement payment.
The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program replaces the weekly $600 top-up payment which was part of the CARES Act and ran from March until the end of July. The $300 LWA payment is a supplement on top of standard unemployment benefit paid by each state. Each state has the choice on whether to top up the payment by providing an additional 25% ($100) or not. To be eligible for the extra benefits, an individual must be receiving at least $100 as part of their regular unemployment insurance from any of the following:
- Unemployment compensation, including regular State Unemployment Compensation, Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service members (UCX)
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
- Extended Benefits (EB)
- Short-Time Compensation (STC)
- Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA)
- Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program
States must find the money for the 25% top-up by dipping into their own Coronavirus Relief funds or existing cash reserves – providing there is enough left… To date, no state government has agreed to fund the $100 supplement. States have until 10 September to apply for the LWA program, with the aforementioned four (Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico) already signed up for a grant to receive federal funding.
When will LWA unemployment benefits start?
No specific date has been set. According to the FEMA memo issued on 15 August, the U.S. Labor Department estimates an average of three weeks from the date the executive order was signed off (8 August). So realistically, we are looking at the end of this month at the earliest before the first enhanced payments will start going out. These additional benefits are not finite and will eventually come to an end, either when the $44 billion FEMA funds run out, or by the end of the year - unless of course, Congress passes new legislation for unemployment benefits in next few months.
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