As job losses mount, states struggle to pay extended benefits

“I worry that unemployed workers have used up a lot of these savings and have a lot less to maintain,” said Tedeschi. “Workers need the relief they are entitled to and are entitled to as soon as possible.”

The delay comes as job losses increase and economic recovery loses momentum amid the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic. The Ministry of Labor reported on Friday US employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, the first drop in employment since April.

President-elect Joe Biden has backed Democratic leaders’ call for more federal aid to improve services – a prospect attainable with the Democrats winning the two Georgia runoffs Tuesday and putting them in control of the Senate.

Neera Tanden, Biden’s election to head the Office of Management and Budget, said during an event hosted by Business Forward Wednesday that the president’s transition team “is considering how unemployment insurance can be extended for the duration of the crisis.” She didn’t elaborate on how they would do it.

But Congress has already started to leave the city until Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, which means unemployed Americans will likely wait a while to get more financial aid from Washington.

While some states like New York, Maryland, and Maine have been able to issue federal unemployment benefits immediately, others, including Nebraska, North Dakota, and Kansas, say they are reviewing the Department of Labor guidelines and needing time to reassess the performance assessments to shorten.

Even in states like New Jersey, Texas, and Georgia that are paying out or awaiting the aid soon, workers who have depleted their federal unemployment benefits every 39 weeks in the past year will have to wait for additional reprogramming and editing of the computer systems.

Legislators extended several CARES Act programs for emergency unemployment insurance under the Massive Economic Relief Act, which went into effect on December 27. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides unemployment benefits to gig workers and others who have traditionally not been eligible for help. and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extends state unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks.

However, with Congress waiting just days before the program’s expiry date on December 31st to pass a bill extending the programs through 2021, many states haven’t had time to put their systems in place to keep paying out benefits in the new year.

The Relief Act also restored the federal pandemic unemployment compensation program, which expired in late July, to provide an additional $ 300 per week to all workers receiving unemployment benefits through March 14.

But it was the expansion of that program that caused programming problems for some government systems that hadn’t paid the benefit since late summer.

Washington State has been able to reprogram its system to prevent benefits for its residents from the federal PUA and PEUC programs from being forfeited. However, it cannot begin issuing the additional $ 300 payments until January 15th.

The Massachusetts and Nebraska labor offices say they can issue the $ 300 payment this week, but are still working on setting up the other relief programs.

So far, at least 18 states have started making benefit payments this week or are planning to do so early next week. These include Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Idaho and New York, among others.

About 32 states are currently not paying out all benefit programs or have not provided an update on their website or responded to requests for comments. These include Michigan, Montana, Florida, Alaska, Washington, and Wyoming.

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued dozens of pages of guidance since President Donald Trump signed the law last month. The agency has also made three calls and sent mass emails to states explaining the new unemployment rules in the stimulus package. Technical assistance webinars will be held this week and next.

“Some states can’t even really give a timetable at this point,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment insurance expert with the left-wing National Employment Law Project.

“Some states wait for all five guidelines before saying anything or putting something out,” she said, noting that the DOL was issuing several educational documents during the vacation.

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