FEMA announces first states to receive grant replacing lost wages

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced the first four states to receive grants intended to replace lost wages for Americans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana and New Mexico are the first states to agree to administer a program providing an additional $300 per week for unemployed people on top of unemployment insurance.

FEMA said in a statement that the agency would work with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as they “implement state systems to make this funding available to the residents of their states.”

Ducey and Reynolds are both Republicans, while Edwards and Lujan Grisham are both Democrats. Arizona and Iowa are both considered to be key swing states in the upcoming election.

This move by FEMA comes after President Trump took executive action earlier this month to make $44 billion from the agency’s Disaster Relief Fund available to states to supplement unemployment insurance. Congress passed a coronavirus relief bill in March that provided an extra $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits, but this provision expired at the end of July. Congress and the White House were unable to reach a deal on further relief legislation.

States are expected to cover $100, or 25%, of the cost of the additional unemployment benefits, meaning that unemployed Americans would ideally be receiving an additional $400 per week, a significant decrease from their previous benefits. Many congressional Republicans had expressed opposition to the $600 per week figure, arguing it would incentivize people to remain unemployed.

While Mr. Trump’s memorandum makes the additional unemployment payments retroactive to August 1, the money could take weeks to reach people and amount to less than advertised for some claimants living in states that cannot afford to provide the extra $100.

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