Unemployed New Yorkers will soon be getting a little extra help after Gov. Andrew Cuomo walked back his previous remarks regarding the $300 enhanced unemployment benefits. After Cuomo initially claimed that the state would refuse the benefit, Robert Mujica, the state budget director, confirmed that New York will apply for FEMA's Lost Wages Assistance program.
In a statement on Friday, Mujica confirmed that "New York State will apply for the Lost Wages Assistance program," adding that "politics does not impact policy -- especially during a pandemic -- and if New Yorkers are in need, this administration will do everything we can to support them." Mujica said that New York applying for the program "does not absolve Washington from doing its job" and implored Congress to "pass a comprehensive aid package that provides a stable extension of unemployment benefits." He also called for the SALT cap to be repealed.
The state's participation in the program came just after Cuomo said that he would be joining South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in refusing the offer. While Noem declined the offer due to South Dakota being "in the fortunate position of not needing to accept it," Cuomo was posed to decline it due to concerns. According to WKWB, Cuomo said that he would "rather do business with the old-time 'bookie' on the street corner than do business with FEMA," a remark that was cause for concern for New Yorkers struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic.
FEMA officially approved New York's application for the Lost Wages Assistance program on Sunday. New York joins more than a dozen other states approved to take part in the program. Those states include Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Utah, Montana, Oklahoma, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, California, Alabama, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Mississippi, Vermont, Georgia, and Alaska.
Once approved for funding, FEMA has explained that the funding for benefits will be made available to states within one business day, though it may take a bit longer for states to begin adding that extra money to unemployment benefit checks. In a memo, FEMA explained that unemployment insurance systems must be adjusted to "access these funds and accommodate program requirements," a process that could take several weeks. FEMA estimated that most states would be able to begin distributing the funds approximately three weeks from Aug. 8, or roughly around Aug. 29. The funds are being provided by $44 billion allocated from the Disaster Relief Fund.