More than a week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting some of the most critical aspects of economic relief, and seven states have already been approved for the enhanced $300 weekly unemployment benefit. In a memo on Aug. 15, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico Utah are approved under the Lost Wages Assistance Program. A second memo just a day later confirmed that Colorado, Missouri, and Utah had also been approved.
FEMA said that the states' applications were approved by FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor and explained that the agency's grant funding will allow these states to provide those unemployed due to COVID-19 $300 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefit. The agency noted that it will work with these states, and any others to be approved, "as they implement state systems to make this funding available to the residents of their states."
"FEMA looks forward to working with the governors of additional states who agree to administer a lost wages program to bring financial relief to unemployed Americans," the notice added.
CNN notes that Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper have stated that their states will participate in the program as well. Other governors, including Brian Kemp of Georgia, have indicated that they are reviewing the executive measure.
South Dakota, meanwhile, has turned down the benefits boost, making it the only state to do so thus far. Announcing the decision in a statement issued late last week, Gov. Kristi Noem said that "South Dakota is in the fortunate position of not needing to accept it." She explained that the state's "economy, having never been shut down, has recovered nearly 80% of our job losses." According to Forbes, while South Dakota's unemployment rate was 7.2% in June, that was more than double the 3.3 percent rate in June 2019 and more than double the 3.4 percent rate in March 2020. It was, however, down from 9.4% in May.
The funding for this enhanced benefit is coming from $44 billion in disaster relief money from FEMA. To participate in the program and provide the enhanced benefits to their residents on unemployment benefits, states must submit a grant application "and completed administrative plans" by Sept. 10. Approval time varies, FEMA noted, though once approved, funding will be made available to the state within one business day. Given the current number of those unemployed and the total of allocated funds, it has been estimated that the enhanced benefit will only last a maximum of five weeks.