State Applies for Extra $300 a Week in Federal Unemployment Benefits

    Marylanders who are unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be getting an additional $300 in federal assistance after additional benefits expired last month.

    Maryland’s application for a Federal Emergency Management Administration Lost Wages Assistance grant was approved Thursday, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced, and it will provide an additional $300 a week to people who lost wages in the midst of COVID-19 shutdowns.

    “Maryland is doing much better on our health metrics than most of the rest of the country, we are doing much better on our economic recovery than most of the rest of the country, and we want to do whatever it takes to keep it that way,” Hogan said in a statement. “But far too many Marylanders are still struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic. With this critical funding, we can help those struggling Marylanders weather this storm, get back on their feet, and recover.”

    The announcement came after an additional $600 in federal unemployment assistance expired at the end of July. The weekly $600 was part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in March, and lawmakers are currently split along party lines over whether to renew it.

    According to FEMA, the lost-wage payments will continue until the agency has expended $44 billion from the disaster relief fund, the disaster relief fund’s balances reaches $25 billion, additional federal unemployment compensation is passed, or until Dec. 27. The amount of money FEMA gives to each state will be based on the projected amount of lost wage and the estimated number of eligible claimants.

    Claimants will receive the $300 per week in benefits retroactively to the week ending on Aug. 1, according to the release. Claimants must be eligible for a weekly unemployment benefit amount of at least $100 to be eligible for FEMA’s additional $300 – and need to “self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.”

    FEMA also offered a $400 a week amount, although states are required to provide 25% – or $100 – of those weekly benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “for the $300 per week benefit, FEMA will fund the entire amount and states may choose to simply satisfy the 25 percent state match, without allocating additional state funds, with the state funding used to pay regular state UI unemployment benefits.”

    Maryland will satisfy that 25% match through funding regular unemployment insurance funding that is already paid to claimants, according to the news release.

    Maryland currently has an unemployment rate of about 8%, according to the release, which is below the roughly 10.2 percent national rate. Many Marylanders struggled to get benefits in the early days of the pandemic as state officials scrambled to fulfill an unprecedented number of claims. A new report on unemployment data is expected on Friday.

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    Bennett Leckrone
    Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.