New York working ‘as quickly as possible’ to get out $300 unemployment benefit. Here’s the latest

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ALBANY – Some states have been providing $300 a week in additional federal aid to unemployed residents out of work due to COVID-19.

New York has yet to become one of them.

But help may be coming soon.

The state Labor Department told the USA TODAY Network New York that it is moving forward with plans to distribute the $300 a week approved unilaterally Aug. 8 by President Donald Trump amid gridlock in Washington.

The unemployment benefit would be on top of up to $504 a week that New York provides to out-of-work residents and would temporarily replace the $600 a week the federal government doled out through July 31 to more than 2 million New Yorkers.

More than a half dozen states have already started to issue the $300 a week through the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, with Pennsylvania starting this week.

But New York and other states have said the new program requires a host of administrative changes to their unemployment system and not as easy as it would have been to simply continue the $600 a week program had Congress extended it.

“New York has acted faster than any other major state to support unemployed New Yorkers, including paying out 19 years’ worth of benefits in just five months, being among the first states to pay the $600 supplemental benefit in April, and creating a seamless application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance weeks ahead of others,” said Deanna Cohen, spokeswomen for the state Labor Department.

But she added: “Administering the Lost Wages Assistance program is made even more complex by the federal administration’s inability to work with Congress and the President’s attempt to cover for this failure with a haphazard executive order. We continue to work as quickly as possible to get New Yorkers their benefits.”

More: New York approved for $300 a week unemployment money. When might the money come?

$300 a week still being processed in New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was initially reluctant to have New York apply for the $300 a week because Trump required states to pay 25% of the cost to beef up the payments to $400 a week.

But in late August, Trump dropped the requirement, and New York subsequently applied and was approved for the money.

Even still, it has been far from a smooth process across the nation. About half of the 41 states that have been approved have yet to release a target date to release the money because they are still updating their systems, New York officials said.

Also, New York would have to provide payments to more people than any other state that has done so to this point.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is distributing the $44 billion Trump set aside from disaster relief funds, said it is up to states to reconfigure their systems to accept the payments.

“The timeframe to administer funding to individuals will vary by applicant,” FEMA said in a statement.

“States, territories or the District of Columbia must adjust their unemployment insurance system to access these funds and accommodate program requirements, such as claimant eligibility.”

More: Will New Yorkers get a second stimulus check? What negotiations mean for residents

More: New York will apply for $300 a week federal COVID unemployment benefits. What to know.

How long would the money last?

And even if New York does start distributing the funds, it would be a short-term fix for unemployed people in the state.

The money could run through December, according to Trump’s order, but FEMA has warned it might only last weeks depending on how many states apply and get the money.

FEMA said it would only distribute the money to the point where the disaster relief fund drops to $25 billion.

In fact, Texas was told Wednesday that unemployed residents could get six weeks worth of the $300 payments, but that was it —retroactive from Aug. 1 through Sept. 5.

FEMA guidance has indicated that people receiving unemployment benefits would get the federal money with their regular state payments, retroactive to Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, Congress remains at odds over the next stimulus package.

Senate Republicans on Thursday are expected to advance legislation that would include $300 in weekly payments, but Democrats are pushing for the $600 a week that was included in the House package passed two months ago.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, urged Republicans to reach an agreement on a new stimulus package.

“COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of American life,” the New York senator said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“The needs in our country are so great; the pain felt by average Americans is severe.”

More: New York City can add limited indoor dining at month’s end. Here’s what will be allowed

More: Parents who are also teachers in New York struggle with school’s return

Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany

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