Millions of laid-off Americans could soon start to receive a $300-a-week boost in their weekly unemployment benefits.
So far, 34 states have been approved to offer sweetened federal unemployment aid, created on Aug. 8 when President Trump signed an executive order allocating $44 billion in funding from the Disaster Relief Fund to cover the additional $300 weekly benefit.
The measure was intended to replace then lapsed $600-a-week payments, which had been enacted by the CARES Act in March.
The boosted aid will last until the money in the fund runs out, or through Dec. 6, 2020, according to the executive memo. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the money will last for about five weeks.
The states approved to start distributing the money are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state.
Arizona and Texas are the only states to have started doling out the money.
States applying for the federal grants will receive an "initial obligation of three weeks of needed funding," according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is distributing the money.
FEMA will then make additional disbursements to states on a weekly basis "in order to ensure that funding remains available for the states who apply for the grant assistance," according to a memo.
Although Trump's executive action called for unemployed Americans to receive $400-a-week in aid, it hinged on cash-poor states being able to chip in 25%, or $100.
Under guidance released in early August, the Labor Department suggested that rather than adding $100 a week on top of what they already pay in weekly benefits, states could count their existing payments toward the 25% share. Essentially, workers would receive a $300 boost rather than the intended $400.
So far, only three states -- Montana, West Virginia and Kentucky -- have indicated they'll chip in the additional $100 for jobless aid.
The average state unemployment benefit is about $330 per week. With the federal supplement, Americans can expect to receive about $630 in weekly unemployment benefits.
Only people who are receiving at least $100 in unemployment assistance through regular state programs or other aid initiatives like a shared-work program are eligible for the boosted benefits, according to a White House memo. Benefits are calculated based in part on a worker's former income, which could mean that some of the country's lowest earners are excluded. At least 1 million people will not qualify for the benefit, according to one estimate.
The Labor Department's July jobs report released at the beginning of August showed that employers added 1.8 million jobs last month, sending the unemployment rate down to 10.2%. While it marked the third consecutive month of job growth in the millions, the economy has so far added back less than half -- about 42% -- of the 22 million jobs it lost during the pandemic.
There are roughly 10.6 million more out-of-work Americans than in February.