After Congress failed to reach an agreement on a fourth coronavirus stimulus package earlier this month, President Donald Trump took it upon himself to sign several executive orders that would help Americans get by in the meantime.
One of those executive measures – the Lost Wages Grant – was an order to help bolster unemployment benefits to jobless or furloughed workers, which was especially necessary after the extra $600 that Americans without a job were privy to based on the previous CARES Act ended on July 31. The grant reallocates $44 billion from FEMA toward these lost wages.
Specifically, the Lost Wages Grant offers out of work Americans up to $400 in enhanced unemployment aid. Many states applied, but at the time of this writing, only 19 had been approved to provide its residents with this boost in unemployment aid. And while nearly half the union has been approved, only two states have started to disperse it.
It begs the questions: Will your state be offering it? When will you receive these extra benefits? And how much can you expect?
While states who are approved for the Grant program can pay up to $400 extra per week in enhanced unemployment benefits, most of the states that have been approved are paying only $300. Why not $400? It’s because the program requires states to pony up 25 percent of the costs with this grant. But states can count benefits that they’re already paying as fulfillment, which essentially means that they won’t have to kick in the additional money.
The three states that are paying out the $400 maximum – Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia – have stated that they’ll use remaining funds through the CARES Act to help finance the extra $100 per unemployed worker.
One additional caveat is that states are only guaranteed three weeks of funding from the program, though continuous funding will continue to be reevaluated after that on a week-by-week basis. One good thing is that workers in any state that have been approved for the funds will see their benefits backdated to August 1, so while they’ll see a decline in their benefits from the benefits they received via the CARES Act, they’ll receive the benefits that they’re entitled to without any stop gap – eventually.
This brings us to our final point – when workers can begin to collect this money. At the time of this writing, two states have already begun to pay out workers. It’s estimated that approved states may have to wait several weeks for payments to be initiated.
It’s good news that the government is offering states a fallback option right now, but with tens of millions still out of work and an unknown end in sight for the pandemic, Congress is going to have to eventually come together to agree on a package that will provide relief through at least – more than likely – the end of the year.