State seeks to provide additional unemployment benefit

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Tuesday that the state is seeking to provide out-of-work people with an additional $300 per week in unemployment assistance for a short time through a plan announced by President Donald Trump.
The Alabama Department of Labor said in a news release that the state is applying for the Lost Wages Assistance Program created by Trump.
It is unclear how long the extra payments would last, and it may be only for a short time. The state Labor Department said federal guidance indicated states would get three weeks’ worth of funding. Additional weeks would be granted on a weekly basis if funds are available.
“This additional program provided by the Trump Administration provides an opportunity for those who are still struggling with the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to receive a boost in their unemployment compensation,” Ivey, a Republican, said in a statement.
“While Alabama continues to improve economically, we know that there are those who still need assistance. Alabama will work expeditiously to provide these needed funds as quickly as possible.”
To be eligible for the benefit, the Alabama Department of Labor said recipients must receive at least $100 in unemployment and must certify that they remain unemployed or partially unemployed due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The Labor Department said unemployed workers will be automatically notified if they are eligible. No additional application is required.
Payments would be retroactive to August 1. The state will begin issuing the payments following approval and receipt of funds.
Out-of-work Americans had been receiving an additional $600 a week in supplemental unemployment funds, in addition to what the state pays, during the COVID-19 pandemic which saw unemployment skyrocket. The supplemental payment expired July 31 and Congress has been unable to agree on an extension.
Trump, to bypass Congress in extending additional unemployment payments, announced plans by memorandum to give up to an additional $400 a week. Trump’s original proposal would have required states to contribute $100 of that $400, but many states expressed concern about the ability to afford that match.
Tara Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Labor, said earlier this month that the state’s unemployment fund has been nearly depleted during the pandemic
The massive influx of new claims during the COVID-19 pandemic has drained the state’s unemployment fund from about $750 million before the pandemic to $200 million, she said.
Hutchinson said the state’s unemployment fund, which has been paying out $20 million to $25 million in benefits each week, has only about two months’ worth of regular benefits remaining under the current rate of payout. She said the state is prepared to apply for federal assistance if needed.
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