Rep. Higgins weighs in on $300/week Lost Wages Assistance benefit

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(WIVB) – Those weekly bonuses in New Yorkers’ unemployment checks are getting stretched a little further- but they’re going to be much smaller.

The $600-per-week government benefit through the CARES Act went a long way toward paying the bills, but that expired at the end of July.

The new benefit is half that- $300- and right now it’s only set to last for six weeks, retroactive to Aug. 1.

With Congress unable to reach an agreement on a new economic stimulus plan, the $600 per week unemployment bonus expired.

But since Congress also holds the purse strings, President Trump also signed an order adding $300 per week, which comes out of FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Congressman Brian Higgins says the money from the additional unemployment benefits will come from disaster relief for natural catastrophes like hurricanes and wildfires which are currently plaguing parts of the country.

While Higgins says additional funds for jobless workers are helpful, there is a better way to provide relief.

“They are going through the stress of a pandemic, many people lost their jobs and then they are stuck on the phone for three days waiting for a response from the state employment insurance,” Higgins said.

But state labor officials say the additional benefits through FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance should be less cumbersome.

The 2 million workers already in New York’s system are automatically enrolled, and the 400,000 workers who are not enrolled can file their claims online or by phone.

Still, Higgins says direct payments through government agencies seem to work much better.

“I think the situation with administering unemployment was an unmitigated disaster in March, April, May and June,” Higgins said. “The stimulus checks that went directly to individuals was much more efficiently and effectively administered.”

To qualify for the additional $300 unemployment benefit, the job loss must be related to COVID-19 and there is even a provision for self-employed workers to receive unemployment pay.

Click here for the state’s unemployment guide.

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