Why $300 Unemployment Benefits Could End in Mere Weeks

After the $600 enhanced unemployment benefit expired on July 31, millions of out-of-work Americans were offered hope when President Donald Trump issued an executive order targeting those benefits. That hope, however, may not be long-lasting, because new reports suggest that the newly-instated $300 unemployment benefit may only last as short as three weeks.

That estimate was revealed in a recent memo issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding the relief. Addressing the question of how the funds, $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund, will be distributed, the agency noted that states applying for the federal grants will receive an "initial obligation of three weeks of needed funding." Any additional distribution of the funds will then be made to states on a weekly basis "in order to ensure that funding remains available for the states who apply for the grant assistance."

The memo also noted that although there will only be an initial three-week funding, the benefit will last until the $44 billion runs out, the balance of the fund falls below $25 billion, or through Dec. 6, 2020, such as was laid out by the memoranda the president signed after stimulus relief talks collapsed on Capitol Hill. Previous estimates have suggested that these funds will not last much longer than that initial three-week allowance. Citing the total amount of the funds and the fact that approximately 30 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits as of the end of July, the Washington-based American Action Forum estimated that the benefit would only last a total of five weeks.

In its memo, FEMA also laid out when states could potentially begin administering the funds to those on unemployment. After a state's application is approved, funding will be available within one business day, though it may take longer for states to begin administering the benefit due to their unemployment insurance system. These systems will have to be adjusted to "access these funds and accommodate program requirements, such as claimant eligibility." Citing the Department of Labor, FEMA said that this could take "an average of three weeks from August 8," though "at least one state has estimated it will have all payments out retroactive to August 1 in less than one week from grant award."

At this time, FEMA has already approved seven states for the program. Those states include Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, and Utah. South Dakota, meanwhile, is the only state to reject the funding.