NY OK'd for $300 weekly jobless payment
When the money will start coming remains uncertain
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ALBANY — New York was approved late Monday by the federal government for a $300 a week supplemental payment for unemployed residents.
The state announced Friday it would apply for the money made available by President Donald Trump by executive order Aug. 8 through $44 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA said Monday New York's application was approved, making it among 30 states to enter the program to provide additional help to unemployed New Yorkers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"FEMA’s grant funding will allow New York to provide $300 per week — on top of their regular unemployment benefit — to those unemployed due to COVID-19," the agency said in a statement.
"FEMA will work with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to implement a system to make this funding available to New York residents."
When can you get the extra help?
When the money will flow is uncertain.
The state Department of Labor said it will work to get the unemployment help out as soon as possible.
"We are diligently working to update our systems so we can administer the Lost Wages Assistance program and deliver supplemental benefits to New Yorkers as quickly as possible," said labor department spokeswoman Deanna Cohen.
The unemployment benefit is on top of up to $504 a week that New York provides to out-of-work residents, and it aims to replace the $600 a week the federal government provided through July 31 for those unemployed because of the virus.
With Congress at a standstill over a new stimulus package, Trump authorized the federal government to provide the $300 a week. Doing so, though, raised legal questions over whether the president could bypass Congress.
Nonetheless, New York agreed to enter the program after the Trump administration dropped a stipulation that states needed to put in an additional $100 a week on top of the $300 from the federal government.
New York, as well as many other cash-strapped states, balked at the caveat, saying they did not have the money to do so.
"Now that the federal government has blinked and will no longer make states provide funding they do not have, New York State will apply for the Lost Wages Assistance program," state Budget Director Robert Mujica said late Friday in a statement.
Could the money run out?
Since March 14, nearly 3.5 million New Yorkers filed first-time unemployment claims.
Experts have suggested it could take weeks if not longer for states to adjust their unemployment programs in order to send out the new federal money.
New York struggled early on in the pandemic to get its arms around all the unemployment claims.
"All the governors will tell you that if the states need to reinvent their unemployment insurance administration program, it will be weeks or months before anyone gets a check," Cuomo said last week.
He said the early troubles with the state's unemployment system during the pandemic showed that "every time you change the administration process, you have to redo the software, etc., because you are issuing millions of checks. New York was one of the faster states doing it. Some of the other states took months."
People already receiving benefits are expected to get the supplemental aid with their regular state payments, retroactive to Aug. 1, recent guidance from FEMA said.
States that began reconfiguring their systems on Aug. 8 could start administering payments by Aug. 29, according to the U.S. Department of Labor
Also, it is unclear how long the federal money could last.
The program comes out of unspent disaster relief funds and is supposed to run through December, according to Trump's order, or until the FEMA aid runs out, which could be much sooner.
In fact, FEMA has estimated could run out within three weeks if all states were to apply, the agency said. As of Thursday, only Arizona had started to provide the money.
But FEMA is approving the states and encouraging them to apply.
"FEMA looks forward to working with the governors of additional states who agree to administer a lost wages program to bring financial relief to unemployed Americans," the agency said.