Program provides $300 weekly unemployment benefit due to COVID-19
New York State has been approved for a FEMA grant under President Donald Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow New York to provide an additional $300 per week on top of the state unemployment benefit to those unemployed due to COVID-19. FEMA will work with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to implement a system to make this funding available to New York residents.
On Aug. 8, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order making available up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is intended as a replacement for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments of $600 per week that ran from April through July 31.
The timeline for implementation of the Lost Wages Assistance program is still unknown. In addition to the fact that the legality of the Executive Order has been questioned, the state will still need to reconfigure their existing systems to account for and distribute the funds. The availability of the funds may also be limited as the Executive Order expires on December 6, 2020, and caps the total amount available nationwide to $44 billion. That $44 billion could run out after as little as five weeks if all states are approved to participate in the program. Currently, 30 states have been approved.
What does this mean for individuals collecting unemployment?
If employers furloughed or laid off employees due to COVID-19 and have not returned to work, they may become eligible for these additional benefits. It will take time before they see the funds released. The $300 weekly benefit will be retroactive to August 1, 2020. It will only run through early December or until the funds run out.
We anticipate no additional action will be required by individuals who are currently certifying for benefits weekly, the additional funds will be paid out by the state in addition to regular benefits.
What does this mean for employers?
At this point, there is no action required of employers. The $300 weekly payment will not impact the employer’s experience rating.
However, if employers have work available and employees resist returning to work to continue to collect benefits then the employer may choose to protest those claims. Contact HR One for more information.
What does this mean going forward?
The President’s Executive Order was signed after Congress failed earlier this summer to reach a deal on extending (either with or without adjustment) the $600 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments under the CARES Act. Unless or until there is an extension of some kind that both the House and Senate can agree to, it is unlikely that there will be any additional extension until 2021, as the President is also limited on the FEMA funds he can access and disperse as grants.