FEMA Says States to Begin Distributing $300 Weekly Unemployment Boost This Month

August 17, 2020 Updated: August 17, 2020

States are slated to roll out the weekly federal $300 unemployment benefits by the end of this month, according to a statement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is distributing the money.

President Donald Trump approved the measure in an executive order earlier this month, which provides $300 in extra federal funding and $100 in state funding if states choose to opt-in.

FEMA, in an FAQ (pdf), said that the agency “awarded the first four grants on August 14,” and that “FEMA approval time depends on whether the application is complete and addresses all grant requirements.”

“Our experience to date is that FEMA will be able to approve applications very quickly, depending on completeness and sufficiency. Once the grant award is approved by FEMA and signed by a state/territory, funding will then be available within one business day of receipt of the fully executed grant award,” according to the agency.

Citing the Department of Labor, FEMA said it estimates the “average of three weeks from” from Aug. 8, which would be about Aug. 29.

“At least one state has estimated it will have all payments out retroactive to August 1 in less than one week from grant award,” it said, underscoring that the timeline will vary from state to state.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that additional funds would take about two weeks to be distributed.

In the CARES Act, approved in March in Congress, additional payments of $600 per week on top of state benefits were distributed until the end of last month when it expired. Congressional Democrats and the White House earlier this month were negotiating on a broader stimulus package that would possibly include unemployment benefits, but those talks stalled.

Republicans have said that the $600 benefit created a disincentive for people to return to work in the midst of the pandemic, while arguing that it is also unfair to taxpayers who currently work. Democrats have said that an expiration in the benefits would slow down economic recovery and lead to financial damage.

On Aug. 16, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN that Trump would be willing to sign a limited stimulus deal in which Postal Service funding would be tied to stimulus payments of up to $1,200, unemployment benefits, and an extension of the small-business loan Payment Protection Program (PPP).

“We have got a lot of people that are hurting out there. And this voting issue is key. If the Democrats feel like this is a big issue—and I talked to some of the more moderate Democrats and a few progressives as well—if this is a big deal, let’s put it with a stimulus check to go to Americans,” he said. Meadows said Congress should “put it with enhanced unemployment extension” as well as “with small business reform in terms of the PPP and extending that.”

“Will the president sign that? Yes, he will sign that. And I’m certain … that whether it’s $10 billion or $25 billion or something in between, we can do that,” he said.