Seven U.S. states have exhausted federal disaster-relief funds tapped to provide supplementary federal jobless aid to millions of Americans, while other states are running low. President Donald Trump authorized the extralast month after a more generous program offering $600 per week had expired.
Florida said on Wednesday that it will pay out only four weeks of additional jobless aid, rather than the six weeks provided under the program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing the effort, said last week it would provide.
Dubbed the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, the White House initiative has caused confusion at a time more than 28 million workers are drawing jobless benefits. That includes uncertainty over when the benefits would begin and end in every state, which were required to apply with FEMA to receive the aid.
“It’s coming as a big surprise to the public that LWA ran out so fast, as it was touted as the administration’s key plan for the unemployed,” said Andrew Stettner, an expert on unemployment aid and a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. “Because it’s capped, the aid ran out almost as soon as states were able to set up the program.”
Unemployed Americans face income cliff
Around the U.S., the average weekly benefit for regular state unemployment is $333. That means typical workers will see their jobless benefits slashed by almost half after the LWA program ends.
The seven states that have already exhausted their funding were among the first to receive approvals from FEMA. Those states are Arizona, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Texas, according to UnemploymentPUA.com, a site that tracks jobless benefits.
Other states that are within one or two weeks of exhausting the extra funding include Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Mexico, according to UnemploymentPUA.com. More than a dozen states, such as Nevada and Oregon, have yet to start sending the $300 payments to unemployed residents.
Florida’s eligibility problem
Florida said it won’t provide the last two weeks of the $300 in extra benefits due to one of the program’s requirements. In a statement emailed to CBS MoneyWatch, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity pointed to a stipulation that at least a quarter of the program’s recipients receive an additional $100 in state jobless aid.
The upshot: Florida doesn’t have enough workers who earn at least $100 in state unemployment aid to qualify. Florida Democrats have blamed Governor Ron DeSantis for the decision, writing on Twitter that ending the LWA program two weeks early is “torpedoing [the] FL economy.”
The LWA program so far has forked out nearly $16 billion in benefits.filed initial jobless claims last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the first time in six months that claims were below 800,000 after soaring after the pandemic crippled the U.S. economy in March. Almost 34,000 people filed for unemployment aid in Florida last week, according to Labor Department data.