California on Saturday said it was awarded $4.5 billion from the federal government to provide an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits lasting three weeks, joining 18 other states that have so far enrolled in the program.
In an executive memorandum on Aug. 8, President Donald Trump set aside $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund for states to provide $300 in extra weekly unemployment benefits to those who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.
FEMA is only granting enough money for three weeks of benefits, and after that additional disbursements will be made on a weekly basis “in order to ensure that funding remains available for the states who apply for the grant assistance,” officials say.
California’s $4.5 billion grant for just three weeks of benefits amounts to nearly 10% of the total available funds for the entire program.
It’s unclear when Californians will actually see any money because Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that it may take time to reconfigure existing technology since the eligibility rules differ from the previous coronavirus relief bill.
18 other states have applied for the program, including Massachusetts, Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.
“This new $44 billion allocation of federal funding from the Disaster Relief Fund will not go far. Between its inception and August 1, FPUC has paid out nearly $247 billion. Even with a reduced federal cost of $300 per claimant per week, this amount will be exhausted within a few weeks of states even getting a system up and running to pay it,” the National Employment Law Project said in a statement.
After negotiations for a more comprehensive relief bill collapsed in Congress, President Donald Trump issued his own executive order decreasing the weekly unemployment benefit from $600 under the previous stimulus package to $300 with an optional $100 contribution from states. Only three states have committed to paying the extra $100 so far: Montana, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Some of the poorest Americans won’t be eligible for the extra $300 in the first place. Only those receiving at least $100 per week in regular unemployment benefits can get the extra $300, leaving out many low earners, especially those who are self-employed or rely on tips, that may not meet the income threshold for this level of benefit.