Out-of-work Americans to receive up to $1,800 under Trump's unemployment program

Megan Henney
·3 min read

Americans who lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic could receive as much as $1,800 in unemployment benefits under an executive measure signed by President Trump at the beginning of August.

Under the Aug. 8 edict, the federal government will give unemployed workers an extra $300 in weekly payments. Trump allocated $44 billion to cover the sweetened aid, using money from the Disaster Relief Fund, which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It partially restored the $600-a-week benefit that expired at the end of July.

States, which had to apply for the aid by Sept. 10, will issue up to six weeks of payments to eligible workers, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency said last week. That means the maximum benefit workers could receive is $1,800 over the course of those six weeks.

“States should plan to make payments to eligible claimants for no more than six weeks from the week ending Aug. 1, 2020,” the spokeswoman said.

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Forty-nine states, plus Washington, D.C, Guam and the Virgin Islands, have signed up to pay out the federal portion of the aid. South Dakota chose to not apply for the money. Most states have not started disbursing the money yet, and have said they don't expect to start until late September or early October. Depending on how states choose to distribute the money, workers could potentially receive a lump-sum payment since six weeks have passed since the week ending Aug. 1.

Montana, West Virginia, Kentucky and Kansas are the only states that have committed to kicking in an additional $100 to laid-off workers on top of the $300 supplement, meaning workers in those states will receive up to $2,400 over the six weeks.

It was initially unclear how long the aid could last, with some estimates warning the fund could be depleted within just a few weeks.

"Regardless of where the states and territories are in their process to receive and distribute the FEMA funding, FEMA will fund six weeks in $300 supplemental unemployment benefits to every state and territory that has applied for this assistance by Sept. 1," the FEMA spokeswoman said.

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The average state unemployment benefit is about $330 per week. With the federal supplement, Americans can expect to receive about $630 in weekly unemployment benefits.

Only people who are receiving at least $100 in unemployment assistance through regular state programs or other aid initiatives like a shared-work program are eligible for the boosted benefits, according to a White House memo.

Benefits are calculated based in part on a worker's former income, which could mean that some of the country's lowest earners are excluded. At least 1 million people will not qualify for the benefit, according to one estimate.

Government data released at the beginning of September shows the labor market is far from pre-crisis levels: Employers added 1.4 million jobs in August and the unemployment rate fell to 8.4%, but there are still 11.5 million more out-of-work Americans than there were in February.

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