Show an ad over header. AMP

A quandary for state unemployment agencies

State agencies charged with paying unemployment benefits to jobless residents have their backs against the wall as they rush to parse President Trump's executive actions on coronavirus aid.

Why it matters: States are being asked to pitch in $100 per unemployed resident, but it’s a heavy lift for cash-strapped states that are still unclear about the details and may not opt-in at all. It leaves the states and jobless residents in a state of limbo.


Driving the news: Trump signed four actions on Saturday, including a presidential memorandum that calls for restarting supplemental unemployment benefits at $400 per week. But the memorandum says the federal government will only pay $300, while states will kick in the rest.

  • A Department of Labor memo to states obtained by Bloomberg says states are not obliged to bankroll the additional $100 — meaning that somepeoplewould only receive the $300 put forward by the federal government.

Meanwhile, confusion reigns, and governors are casting doubt that their states can afford to put up the money for additional unemployment funds.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), whose state has 1.5 million residents on some form of unemployment, said Trump's plan would set the state back $4 billion and called the prospect of states kicking in the money "simply impossible."
  • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said Trump's plan was "not workable in its current form" and estimated it would cost Kentucky $1.5 billion.
  • California's Gavin Newsom (D) said Monday that the state can't afford the unemployment plan. "There is no money sitting in the piggy bank," he told reporters.

Where it stands: Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said over the weekend that the department would work with states to "provide the relief made available" by Trump's executive action.

But severalstate unemployment offices — including in Georgia, Arkansas and Alaska — told Axios on Monday they're still awaiting formal guidance.

  • "We are actively engaging our federal partners on how exactly the benefits would be paid out, and awaiting formal guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on the State of Minnesota’s role," a spokesperson for Minnesota's employment agency said in a statement.
  • "We don't know what the federal government is going to do. We don't know how it'll work," Beshear told reporters on Monday.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told CNN Sunday the state was exploring paying the extra $100: “We’re looking at it right now to see if we can do this.”
  • A DOL spokesperson said the agency would give formal guidance to states in “the next few days,” as well as offer ”technical assistance” to states that want to offer the benefits under Trump’s plan.

Any changes to state unemployment systems would take weeks to implement, officials warned Monday. It's a problem that plagued states at the onset of the coronavirus, when they rushed to refresh decades-old systems to process claims for the millions of suddenly unemployed.

  • Beshear said he's advocating for the re-up of $600 because the state already knows how to administer it. "Ifwe have to make any changes to our computer system put in in 2000 ... it's going to keep people from getting those funds."
  • Cuomo echoed that view: “Don't redesign the mouse trap, because the states won't be able to implement that for weeks — and time is not on our side.”

Further complications: The money that the federalgovernment could put up per Trump's memorandum — $44 billion from Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund — would dry up by October unless there's a significant drop-off in the number of Americans on unemployment rolls, as the Washington Post points out.

  • And it's unclear whether Pandemic Unemployment Assistance recipients — the self-employed, gig workers and others with limited work histories who typically wouldn’t receive benefits — would be eligible for the aid outlined in Trump's memo.

The bottom line: The clock is ticking — and bills are still mounting — for the more than 30 million Americans who have been relying on unemployment benefits to make ends meet. They've already seen their financial cushions dwindle with the expiration of the enhanced $600 in benefits.

Schumer: "Nothing is off the table next year" if Senate GOP moves to fill Ginsburg's seat

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told fellow Democrats on a conference call Saturday that "nothing is off the table next year" if Senate Republicans move to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat in the coming weeks.

What he's saying: “Let me be clear: if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year," Schumer said, according to a source on the call. "Nothing is off the table.”

ActBlue collects record-breaking $30 million in hours after Ginsburg's death

ActBlue, the Democratic donation-processing site, reported a record-breaking $30 million raised from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday in the aftermath of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, NPR writes and ActBlue confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters via the New York Times: "The unprecedented outpouring shows the power of a looming Supreme Court confirmation fight to motivate Democratic donors."

Keep reading... Show less

Trump says Republicans have an "obligation" to fill Ginsburg's seat "without delay"

President Trump wrote in a tweet Saturday morning that Republicans have an "obligation" to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court following her death Friday.

What he's saying: "We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices," the president said. "We have this obligation, without delay!"

Hundreds gather to pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg along Supreme Court steps

At the Supreme Court steps Friday night hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — singing in a candlelight vigil, with some in tears.

Details: If there is a singular mood at the Supreme Court tonight, it’s some kind of a daze manifested by silence. 

Keep reading... Show less

Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves behind a court fight for the ages

Ruth Bader Ginsburg — feminist icon, legal giant, toast of pop culture — left this statement with granddaughter Clara Spera as cancer closed in: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

The big picture: For all that the nation owes "Notorious RBG" — the hip-hop-inspired nickname she enjoyed and embraced — Republicans are planning to do their best to be sure her robe is quickly filled, despite that last wish, with her ideological polar opposite.

Keep reading... Show less

Can the U.S. ever eliminate the coronavirus?

As the coronavirus pandemic drags into its seventh month, it remains an open debate whether the U.S. should aim for the elimination of COVID-19 — and whether we even can at this point.

Why it matters: This is the question underlying all of the political and medical battles over COVID-19. As both the direct effects of the pandemic and the indirect burden of the response continue to add up, we risk ending up with the worst of both worlds if we fail to commit to a course.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood for the law"

Joe Biden said Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "never failed, she was fierce and unflinching in her pursuit of civil and legal right and civil rights of everyone," after learning of her death Friday night.

What he's saying: Biden gave a statement after traveling to Delaware from Minnesota, where, earlier Friday, he gave a campaign speech at a carpenters’ training center in Hermantown, a suburb of Duluth. She was "not only a giant in the legal profession, but a beloved figure, and my heart goes out to all those who cared for her and cared about her."

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories