The prolonged temper tantrum from the squatter in the Oval Office has mucked up critical aid to workers on unemployment, but the Labor Department has released guidance that assures they won’t be cheated out of two weeks of unemployment insurance (UI). Trump delayed signing the bill resuming federal UI supplements of $300/week until the day after those payments expired, leaving millions of people in limbo not knowing if the delay was going to end their UI.
“Millions of jobless workers will be able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that they will not lose a week’s worth of income,” Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said. “Now, Donald Trump’s needless delay in signing the relief bill still means unnecessary administrative headaches and late payments, but workers will not lose income.” The payments are combined with the benefits states already provide, which average at $378/week—not enough to pay rent in most states on its own. The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation—coverage for gig and self-employed workers—to provide that additional assistance.
The original CARES Act extended $600/week supplemental payments. Those expired back in July. An executive action in August gave a temporary boost of $300/week to some people, but that funding quickly ran out. The extension finally signed into law by Trump on Sunday won’t provide retroactive payments to July, but it does give workers 11 more weeks of expanded benefits. It will have to be renewed again under the Biden administration, because there’s no way the nation is out from under the pandemic in 11 weeks.
At least one state—Florida, of course—started kicking people out of the program as of this weekend, when it was expired for the very brief period before Trump signed the bill. Even though the federal programs are starting up again, it’s not clear for unemployed Floridians if they’ll be forced to reapply for benefits or be automatically reenrolled. That’s after the state was weeks behind in getting the aid out initially last spring and summer.
That it took Trump’s Department of Labor two full days to clarify that states should proceed as if no lapse had occurred is a problem. Better late than never, yes, but it’s already caused major hiccups in state systems and is going to delay checks for millions of people.
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