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$400 in weekly unemployment benefits could actually be just $300 for many because of how aid will be calculated

President Donald J. Trump signs a Presidential memorandum for continued student loan payment relief during the COVID-19 pandemic Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, at a news conference in Bedminster, N.J. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
August 16, 2020

The extra $400 in weekly unemployment benefits President Donald Trump promised last week will likely be just $300 for many jobless Americans.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday the administration has slightly modified its plans for the enhanced benefits after states raised concerns they could not afford their share of the cost.

An executive order Trump signed Saturday calls for an additional $400 in weekly unemployment benefits, but says states would have to pay a quarter of the cost, or $100.

But governors in cash-strapped states complained it would be difficult for them to find the extra money, so the administration looked for a way around that requirement.

Kudlow told reporters at the White House Tuesday the administration has decided states won’t have to chip in the extra $100 as long as they already provide at least $100 in state unemployment benefits. Most states already meet that requirement and won’t have to put up the extra money, he said.

That means most eligible claimants will get an extra $300 in federal benefits on top of what they already receive from the state.

“We felt that was a good, generous compromise,” Kudlow said.

Kudlow said the checks should start going out in a couple of weeks and will be retroactive to Aug. 1. The average state unemployment benefit is around $400 per week, so with the federal supplement, many Americans can expect to receive $700 in weekly unemployment benefits, Kudlow said.

Trump ordered the extra unemployment benefits after negotiations with congressional leaders collapsed late last week without an agreement on a new relief package to help Americans still suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress voted in March to provide $600 in supplemental unemployment benefits, but those benefits expired at the end of July.

Besides extending unemployment benefits, Trump signed executive orders suspending some student loan payments, protecting some renters from eviction and deferring payroll taxes.

The decision to let states count existing unemployment benefits as their 25% match for the federal aid could add to the legal questions surround Trump’s orders. Some Democrats and other critics have argued they are on shaky legal ground or are even unconstitutional.


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