Press Releases

States Already Exhausting $300 Unemployment Payments As FEMA Clarifies Program Will Only Cover 6 Weeks Of Benefits

Washington, September 10, 2020

Across the country implementation of President Trump’s executive order to provide cut-in-half enhanced unemployment benefits continues to result in chaos. The White House initially promised $400 per week would reach unemployed workers “immediately” under the order issued after its negotiators walked away from economic stimulus talks. Administration officials subsequently clarified that the federal government would only provide $300, which would take first “one or two” weeks, and then five weeks.

Nearly seven weeks after the $600-per-week enhanced federal unemployment benefit enacted under the CARES Act expired, two thirds of states (34) still have not initiated the $300 payments under the Lost Wages Assistance program (LWA). Now the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the program, has warned that the fund is exhausted, with $30 billion of $44 billion available already spent or committed. State employment agencies were told in a September 9 FEMA presentation that “payments should only be provided for the weeks that FEMA has approved,” with an “initial award (weeks 1-3)” and the potential of an “additional weeks 4, 5 & 6” currently subject to FEMA processing to follow if approved.

As of writing, only 16 states have paid benefits under the Lost Wages Assistance program (analysis below). Of these, at least six (Texas, Montana, Tennessee, Iowa, Utah, Arizona) have already begun warning recipients that benefits will soon be exhausted, and three more (New Mexico, Missouri, and Louisiana) appear likely to exhaust their benefits soon based on the quantity and timing of payments already issued.

“America’s economy is getting hammered, but when those who need help most look to Washington they see Senate Republicans posturing with bad legislation and the White House refusing to negotiate,” said Joint Economic Committee Vice Chair Don Beyer (D-VA). “For 25 weeks in a row now the country has seen more new unemployment claims than the worst week of the Great Recession, and still the White House is refusing to take this crisis seriously. Donald Trump’s Executive Order is not nearly good enough for millions of unemployed workers losing food security, housing, and health care. The White House must resume negotiations with Congressional leaders to provide strong economic stimulus as soon as possible.”

Some states say they will be unable to implement payments before late October; even in states that have already made payments vast numbers are still waiting for benefits as their status is verified. Many unemployed workers will also be excluded from benefits, primarily because of the Trump Administration’s ill-considered decision to bar an estimated one million individuals receiving less than $100-per-month from state unemployment.

States distributing LWA payments as of 9/10/2020:

Alabama | Arizona | California | Idaho | Iowa | Louisiana | Massachusetts | Missouri | Montana | New Hampshire | New Mexico | North Carolina | Tennessee | Texas | Utah

States still setting up LWA payments or awaiting approval as of 9/10/2020:

Alaska | Arkansas | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida  | Georgia | Hawaii  | Illinois | Indiana | Kansas | Kentucky | Maine | Maryland | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Nebraska | Nevada |New Jersey | New York | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

Note: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem declined to extend enhanced federal benefits to South Dakota’s ten thousand unemployed workers.