The state of Ohio has begun paying out an additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits, retroactive to Aug. 1, for the temporary program ordered by President Donald Trump after negotiations between the White House and Congress broke down on a longer-term fix.
The pay is a replacement for $600 in added unemployment benefits recipients had been receiving through the end of July under the pandemic relief bill known as the CARES Act.
However, the new program called Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) is to run only as long as the $44 billion set aside for it lasts. Each state participating initially received three weeks of money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, then more as available.
Ohio has been approved to distribute the payments for six weeks – the weeks ending Aug. 1 through Sept. 5 – according the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services website.
First up are those on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, according to the ODJFS website, starting “the week of September 16,” which was Wednesday. PUA is the program created this year for those who do not qualify for traditional unemployment, such as self-employed people and low-wage workers.
“We are working to implement the system programming necessary to provide LWA to eligible traditional unemployment, Trade and SharedWork Ohio claimants, as well as claimants receiving extended benefits. This work is expected to be complete in mid- to late September,” the state’s announcement said. These payments will be retroactive to Aug. 1 as well.
Ohio applied for the program Aug. 24, after about half the states were approved. FEMA approved Ohio’s application two days later.
The payments, under federal rules, are to be issued only to people unemployed (or working substantially less in some cases) because of COVID-19 reasons, and qualifying for at least $100 per week in other unemployment benefits.
Unemployment checks in Ohio normally amount to no more than half the lost weekly income, topping out at $480 for a single person or $647 for someone with at least three dependents.
The extra $600 under the CARES Act was designed to replace an average wage nationally, once combined with the regular unemployment benefits. The Democrat-led U.S. House in May approved an extension through January. However, the Republican-controlled Senate has not passed any version of the bill.
Talks between the White House the Democrats broke down in early August, thus ending the original program. President Trump then announced a temporary program for up to $400 a week, but that required a $100 contribution from the states. Ohio, like most states, is not paying the extra $100.
However, a longer-lasting extensions remains possible.
A 50-member bipartisan group of U.S. House members earlier this week introduced a compromise that calls for a new $450 extra weekly for eight weeks, followed by up to $600 per week that would not exceed the total paychecks workers earned before the pandemic.
The proposal also includes a new round of $1,200 direct stimulus checks to taxpayers, plus $500 per dependent child.