(Bloomberg) — Funding is drying up for the supplemental weekly jobless-benefit payments authorized by President Donald Trump at the start of August, with aid capped at just six weeks in the stopgap program.
Under the Lost Wages Assistance program — which uses disaster-relief funds to provide an extra $300 a week from the federal government to most jobless-benefit recipients — states will get funding covering six weeks, according to an emailed statement Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Several states announced they were notified Wednesday that funding would not extend beyond the benefit week that ended Sept. 5.
Almost every state and territory has applied and been approved, though the program will close to new applications at the end of Thursday, FEMA said.
The Trump administration is looking at ways to extend the program in lieu of a stimulus agreement in Congress, according to a White House official.
The end of the extra payments — which were expected to last one to two months — will make life tougher for the millions of Americans relying on other jobless benefits in a labor market that, despite improvement, remains depressed compared with before the pandemic. It also threatens to sap consumers’ spending power, and therefore businesses revenue, across the economy while lawmakers remain at a stalemate over another stimulus package.
A report Thursday showed applications for state unemployment benefits failed to decline as expected last week, a sign extensive job losses are persisting as the nation continues to struggle to control the coronavirus.
Trump signed an executive action Aug. 8 as a stopgap measure for jobless Americans after lawmakers failed to reach a deal before the added $600 a week in jobless benefits expired at the end of July. The program authorizes eligible claimants to receive supplemental payments backdated to the week ended Aug. 1.
Logistical hurdles, though, including an approval process, led to a delay in Americans actually receiving the money. While several states have at least begun distributing the additional aid, many states have not yet started.
Trump authorized FEMA to expend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for the payments. States also had the option to supplement the $300 federal grant with an extra $100.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the funding.