The temporary $300-a-week unemployment insurance boost implemented by President Donald Trump is about to end, with no extension in sight.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said today in an email to The Associated Press that it has distributed $30 billion of the $44 billion it had set aside for the benefit. The agency said the fund was enough to cover six weeks of additional jobless aid starting Aug. 1, so unemployed workers won’t receive any more after this week.
FEMA emphasized that all eligible recipients will get the $300 boost to cover six weeks, a period that ended Sept. 5.
Some states had technical obstacles that have delayed the payments, and the federal government is still in the process of approving other states’ plans to distribute the money. Eligible workers who have not yet received the $300-a-week supplement or have received less than six weeks’ worth, will receive payments for their full share, according to FEMA. After that, the fund will be dry.
The program was designed to leave money to deal with natural disasters, such as the wildfires now sweeping the West, even after the unemployment boost was gone.
Trump created the program after a more generous $600-a-week benefit adopted by Congress expired. The federal government initially did not have an estimate of how long the money would last, but six weeks is in line with what experts expected.
The Trump administration and congressional Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on a new coronavirus relief package that would include an extension of the unemployment supplement.
Recipients have said the extra jolt of money from the federal government kept them afloat as the economy cratered amid stay-at-home orders and business closings. Today, the government reported that 13.4 million Americans continue to receive state unemployment benefits, although not all of them are receiving the additional $300.
The extra weekly payments came with a significant string attached: It was available only to people receiving at least $100 a week in other unemployment insurance benefits. That cut out hundreds of thousands of low-wage earners, people who had jobs for short periods and gig workers.
One of them is Philip Tuley of Clearlake Oaks, California.
His unemployment benefits come to $65 a week, or $260 a month. It was so low because Tuley, 63, had previously taken a year off after spending two decades as an assistant educator at a school district in rural Northern California. He had been substituting recently and was about to return to his district full time when the pandemic struck.
His unemployment benefit was so small because it was based on his average earnings over a two-year period. He said he’s been turned away from a local food bank because its shelves were bare.
Tuley said Trump’s order is to blame for the predicament he and other low-wage workers are in.
“To have him choose that people who didn’t get $100 were excluded, that’s just — forgive me — it seems sheer evil,” Tuley said.
A handful of states kicked in an additional $100 per person to enhance the payment. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, was the lone governor to decline the additional weekly benefit, according to an AP tally of the states.
FEMA’s announcement came as Democrats in the U.S. Senate scuttled a scaled-back GOP coronavirus aid plan, arguing that it was too stingy. That bill includes continuing a $300 weekly unemployment supplement until late December.
Paula Ridenti, 33, who lives in Waltham, Massachusetts, gets $202 a week in regular unemployment benefits since she stopped working at a grocery store in March when her children’s schools closed, so the $600 supplement was a major help.
But she’s still waiting for her checks with the $300 boost. She should get that money eventually, but in the meantime she has been trying to figure out how to make do on an income that adds up to just about half her monthly $1,600 rent.
“I feel like the two political parties should get together and put aside their differences for the sake of saving their country,” she said.