Only five states making use of Trump’s expanded unemployment benefits: reports
The $300 in additional unemployment benefits President Trump approved in an executive order earlier this month are currently only being paid out by five states, Forbes and Yahoo News reported this week.
Trump’s order, meant to relieve pressure over stalled negotiations on expired benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, tapped into disaster funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The $600 in expanded weekly benefits that Congress approved for some 27 million unemployment recipients expired in July.
Of the 41 states that have applied for the benefit, FEMA has already approved 35, but the process of aligning the benefits through the state unemployment systems takes time.
The only states that were expected to have benefits up and running this week are Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana and Texas.
Only two, Arizona and Texas, had already been confirmed as having issued payments.
Even if all the states that applied are able to get their systems up and running, the Trump order includes more stringent restrictions, only going to those eligible for over $100 a week in regular benefits, up from $1 in the last round. The order is also stricter about keeping benefits limited to those who assert their unemployment is COVID-related.
“I’m worried about who won’t be able to get this benefit,” said Michelle Evermore, a senior researcher at the National Employment Law Project.
One report found that a fifth of recipients in Texas, some 350,000 people, did not qualify for the new benefit even though they would have qualified for the previous one.
“That’s concerning,” Evermore said.
The lag in reprogramming antiquated computer systems has been a regular problem in unemployment talks.
Republicans, concerned that many recipients were earning more on unemployment than at work, sought to offer benefits as a percentage of wages. Unemployment offices said that could take weeks or months to put in place.
According to Forbes’s tally, most states that have applied won’t see the benefits start up until at least mid-September, with some having to wait until October.
The Labor Department, which did not respond to questions from The Hill on the data, had recently asserted that the average state would have benefits rolling out this week. The funds are also expected to hit a wall after three weeks, at which point the benefits may dry up.
While Trump said the order would approve $400 in benefits, the final $100 was to come from other state funding sources. As a result, just three states have said they will raise the benefit to $400: Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia.
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