Unemployed Kentucky residents enter the Kentucky Career Center for help with their unemployment claims on June 19, 2020 in Frankfort, Kentucky.
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Kentucky and Montana
It appears just two states — Kentucky and Montana — are opting to pay $400 instead of $300.
As of Thursday, Montana was the only state to implement the $400 option, according to a FEMA spokeswoman. The federal government approved Montana’s grant application this week.
Kentucky officials planned to submit a grant application on Thursday, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. Paying out the $400 weekly benefit would be contingent on federal approval.
Officials in Colorado said they haven’t yet decided on their approach.
That states would opt for a lower sum is due to specific program rules.
The lost wages assistance was originally billed as a $400 weekly unemployment boost.
It amounts to $300 from the federal government and $100 from the state, due to a cost-sharing requirement that asks states to pick up 25% of the tab.
However, states can count the benefits they’re already paying as fulfillment of that — meaning they don’t have to kick in any additional money.
That’s the route most are taking.
“The majority of the states so far have indicated they’ll take the $300 federal payment with the match being provided by their existing [unemployment] payments,” Keith Turi, FEMA’s assistant administrator of recovery, said Thursday.
Kentucky and Montana officials indicated they’ll use federal funding allocated to states through the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief law enacted in March, to pay for their $100 weekly portion.
Other states may not have had the ability to draw from that Coronavirus Relief Fund.
About 25% of the money in the fund had been spent as of June 30, and states may have already earmarked a large share of the remainder to future costs, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Many states are already borrowing from the federal government to cover current unemployment obligations and may have felt they couldn’t afford to pony up another $100 a week from their own coffers.
19 states approved or applied
Eleven states had received federal approval for the lost wages grants as of Thursday — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.
Arizona started paying benefits out on Monday, the first state to do so.
Eight others had applied as of Thursday and are awaiting final approval — Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia, according to FEMA.
States are only guaranteed three weeks of funding for the program. Additional funding will evaluated on a week-by-week basis.
States will pay benefits going back to the week ended Aug. 1.
The federal aid comes at a time when around 28 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits and more than 1 million Americans file new applications for benefits each week.
An extra $600 weekly unemployment supplement enacted by the CARES Act ended at the end of July.
That’s left unemployed workers with just their state benefits for about three weeks. States paid $308 a week in June, on average.