Nearly half of the nation’s states have been given the green light to issue $300 in federal weekly jobless benefits to help replace lost wages for Americans who are unemployed due to COVID-19, according to a list from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Amid a congressional impasse over the next pandemic relief measure, earlier this month President Donald Trump issued an executive order to provide $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to support unemployed workers. The directive came eight days after the $600 federal weekly benefit expired July 31.
Under the order, FEMA will contribute $300 to the unemployed on top of their regular weekly benefit. The states have the option to add an additional $100. The new payments are expected to last until year’s end or until FEMA’s money is exhausted.
So far, 23 states have approved the payments that are retroactive to Aug. 1. States have until Sept. 10 to apply for the supplemental benefits.
Over the weekend, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont joined Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Texas.
Lawmakers remain at an impasse over the fate of the next stimulus package. Three months ago, the House passed a $3 trillion measure while the Republicans have called for a bill that is closer to $1 trillion. Democrats have been holding out for expanded unemployment benefits while the GOP has insisted on liability protections for business, schools and nonprofits.
It’s unclear when negotiations will resume.
Politico has reported the White House and top Democrats concede that a coronavirus relief deal is still out of reach, leaving Americans with little hope for a package that would be signed by Labor Day.
When asked at a recent press conference when the next negotiation meeting is scheduled, Politico reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion. When they’re ready to do that, we’ll sit down.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed the impasse on the Democrats who he said “barely even pretending to negotiate,” Politico reported.