The Trump administration’s Lost Wages Assistance program, which offered $300 a week for up to six weeks after the $600 boost to jobless benefits lapsed in July, is running out in a number of states.
At least seven states—including Arizona, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Texas—have ended payments for the weekly unemployment supplement, according to a Lost Wages Assistance tracker. Twenty-nine states are in various stages of disbursing the payments, while a handful are still in the processing phase.
The Lost Wages Assistance Program, which is funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and was enacted by a presidential memorandum, provides up to $400 per week in additional benefits, with $300 coming from federal funds, while $100 is an optional top-up from state coffers.
“President Trump has authorized FEMA to use Stafford Act disaster relief funds to provide supplemental payments for lost wages. Up to $44 billion in Disaster Relief Funding is available to support this initiative,” FEMA says on the program’s website.
As more states run out of funds under the program, jobless workers face the prospect of no more federal aid, as Congress and White House officials remain locked in a stalemate over more stimulus measures.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of American workers continue to collect unemployment in all programs nationwide, according to Labor Department figures.
The agency’s most recent jobless claims report (pdf), released on Sept. 17, showed 29.8 million people claiming benefits in all programs in the week ending Aug. 29, an increase of nearly 100,000 from the previous week. In the comparable week in 2019, there were about 1.5 million people claiming unemployment benefits, which shows the colossal impact the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus crisis has had on the labor market.
“Unemployment insurance claims indicate that job growth will be slower through the rest of 2020 and that full recovery in the labor market will take years,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial.
Top U.S. economic policymakers opened the door on Sept. 22 to further aid for small businesses hit by the virus-triggered recession, but differed over how broad it might extend and the manner in which it should be delivered.
In testimony before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell were pressed by lawmakers concerned the multi-trillion-dollar effort to battle the economic fallout from the pandemic had left a broad swathe of businesses vulnerable, from the smallest corner restaurants to commercial office properties and hotels.
After a historic crash during March and April, when many stores were closed, the economic rebound has been surprisingly strong. The economy added 1.371 million jobs in August and has recouped 10.6 million of the 22.2 million jobs lost at the depth of the CCP virus crisis. In his testimony, Powell said there had been “marked improvement” in many other economic measures.
Still, Mnuchin and Powell said they were looking for ways to extend more help, with the Fed chairman saying that aid to small businesses would better come through a grant-type program such as the Paycheck Protection Program.
While the economic rebound has been strong, particularly in sectors like equities and housing, there remains a broad sense among economists, including at the Fed, that the recovery will lapse if further aid is not provided, especially to families and small businesses.
Reuters contributed to this report.