Trump hasn’t yet released disaster unemployment funds


Better be nice to Donnie.


Trump hasn’t yet released disaster unemployment funds

President Donald Trump approved three states’ disaster declarations during the past week, but not the sought-after disaster unemployment assistance.

The three states that President Donald Trump has formally declared coronavirus disaster areas have not received the disaster unemployment assistance that they expected to follow that designation.

New York, California and Washington state all requested access to several aid programs provided under a disaster declaration, including disaster unemployment assistance.

Disaster unemployment assistance allows workers who aren't eligible for traditional unemployment benefits, like Uber drivers and other gig economy workers, to receive 26 weeks' unemployment benefits if their job loss is attributable to a disaster that eliminates their job or keeps them from reaching their job site. To receive disaster employment assistance, a state must be declared a disaster area by the president.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which, in conjunction with the Labor Department, manages the program that disburses disaster unemployment assistance, said that "federal emergency aid has been made available" when the president issued the three "major disaster" declarations on March 20 for New York and March 22 for California and Washington state.

But the disaster unemployment benefits, arguably the most crucial funds freed up by a disaster declaration, were not made available, even as Goldman Sachs estimated that jobless claims nationwide rose last week by more than 2 million, "a roughly ninefold increase over the pre-virus level." The Labor Department will release its tally for the week ending March 21 on Thursday.

The only aid the Trump administration has yet released as a result of the three disaster declarations is for “crisis counseling.” Funds made available through a disaster declaration require separate approval, and are released at the discretion of the executive branch.

A senior administration official said the administration is holding off on approving requests for disaster unemployment assistance because it anticipates Congress will provide similar protections in the coronavirus stimulus package under negotiation.

Under the GOP’s proposed version of the package, workers ineligible for traditional state-funded unemployment benefits, including self-employed workers, could receive aid from a newly created temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fund.

The states' request to access aid programs offered under the disaster declaration, including the disaster unemployment benefits, "remain under review at this time," a FEMA spokesperson told POLITICO.

New York filed its request to be declared a major disaster area on March 16, Washington on March 19 and California on March 22. Texas requested a disaster declaration Monday.

“We appreciate that the federal government has recognized the severity of the public health emergency,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement. But that declaration did not "unlock many forms of federal assistance we have requested to help workers," the Democratic governor said, including the disaster unemployment funds.

"It is time for the federal government to provide Disaster Unemployment Assistance to New Yorkers," agreed Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a prepared statement.

But the senior Trump official said the issue “would have already been addressed” if Democrats “hadn’t airdropped in and made insane demands not related to Covid-19” by moving forward with their own stimulus proposal and blocking several procedural votes to advance the Republicans' package. Lawmakers were expected to announce an agreement on a bipartisan proposal Tuesday.

Hoping to clear bureaucratic obstacles to releasing disaster unemployment assistance, Inslee wrote Trump yesterday urging him to free up the funds and either to move faster to declare additional states disaster areas or to work "with Congress to make this funding available." Govs. Mike Dunleavy (R-Alaska), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and J.B. Pritzker (D.-Ill.) also signed the letter.

The governors noted that disaster unemployment assistance was designed, under the 1974 law that created it, specifically to help workers who can't otherwise tap unemployment benefits, including independent contractors and people who haven't worked long enough in their present jobs to qualify for unemployment benefits.

"Even as states enact policies to flexibly provide unemployment insurance to those in need," wrote the four governors, "we are still leaving many hourly and independent workers behind who desperately need assistance during this crisis.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the Coronavirus Worker Relief Act to ensure that individuals out of work due to the coronavirus be eligible for disaster unemployment funds.

DOL did not respond to a request for comment.

Comments (2)
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ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9

Trump has never cared about the working class, and this seems to be a good example. He's right on the ball when it comes to giving huge tax breaks to his rich friends, but people who desperately need the money are beneath his notice. I hope that those who support him will finally see him for what he really is. In his (mis)handling of the pandemic he has failed us all spectacularly.

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I wonder if this will be waved?

Featured snippet from the web

A waiting week occurs during the first week of a new spell of unem- ployment when a jobless worker satisfies all the requirements for eligibility, but does not receive any benefit payment for his/her first week of unemployment. ... This reduces benefit payment costs.

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