By Miriam Raftery
August 21, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Pete Gaynor has approved California for a FEMA grant under the Lost Wages Assistance program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow California to provide an extra $300 per week -- on top of its regular unemployment benefit -- to those unemployed due to COVID-19.
But that’s only half the amount that workers were receiving before federal supplemental unemployment benefits expired July 31.
The action by FEMA comes after Congress adjourned for the month of August without extending the $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits that out of work Americans were receiving since the pandemic began in March, allowing that relief to end July 31.
So on Aug. 8, President Donald Trump made available via executive order up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic—but at only half the rate they were receiving before July 31.
Republicans in Congress had argued for reduced benefits, contending that higher benefits provided a disincentive for people to return to work. Democrats held out for higher benefits, noting that many workers cannot return to work because their employers remain shut down or operating at reduced capacity and staffing.
Today, the state of California agreed to administer a lost wages program for its citizens who are unemployed due to COVID-19. FEMA will work with California Governor Gavin Newsom to implement a system to make this funding available to California residents.
It is unclear how long it will take to obtain the benefits, or how long the FEMA grant funds will last, though analysts have predicted the FEMA grants will likely be ended if Congress takes action of its own after returning to session in September.
To see a list of states previously approved for lost wages assistance, go to https://www.fema.gov/fact-sheet/lost-wages-assistance-approved-states.
To learn more about FEMA’s lost wages supplemental payment assistance, visit https://www.fema.gov/fact-sheet/fema-lost-wages-supplemental-payment-assistance.