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FEMA Approves Extra $300 In Weekly Unemployment Benefits For Illinois

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois has received approval from the federal government for an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits authorized last month by President Donald Trump, but the state has warned the additional money is expected to last only three weeks, and won't go to tens of thousands who need it most.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it approved the Low Wage Assistance program for Illinois and two other states on Tuesday. A total of 44 states now have been approved for the additional jobless benefits from the federal government.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security has said, under the current funding model for the program, the $300 in extra benefits will last only about three weeks, based on demand. The state also noted that only those who receive at least $100 a week in traditional unemployment benefits are eligible for the additional funds, leaving out approximately 55,000 people who receive less than that.

"President Trump's program will likely cut off the most vulnerable workers, create needless competition among the states for these limited FEMA dollars, and sow more confusion among the unemployed, so I want to caution that those eligible for these dollars will likely encounter frustration and unfairness brought on by the President's short-sighted and short lived program," Pritzker said in a news release. "However, the $300 benefit will provide much needed assistance for those who can get it, too many of whom are facing terrible choices about whether to pay their rent, buy groceries or get medicine. We will do everything in our power to make sure every eligible recipient can participate in this program."

About one-fifth of the U.S. workforce is currently receiving unemployment aid, according to Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. But many of them are struggling after the loss of $600 in extra weekly unemployment aid at the end of July, which has pushed millions of jobless workers off an income cliff.

With Congress deadlocked on another stimulus bill, Mr. Trump signed an order on August 8 to provide the extra $300 in benefits to jobless workers. But Mr. Trump's Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) executive action doesn't go far enough, Stettner said.

"Our analysis shows that LWA would cut the average value of per-person regular unemployment benefits from $908 to $608, a 33% loss," he said in a statement.

Mr. Trump's extra aid also has an expiration date, with FEMA noting that it's authorized an initial three weeks of payments. An additional week or two of funding could be available beyond that, but that depends on how much money states use and whether there are other demands on the $44 billion in disaster relief funds. For instance, some of those funds may be needed to provide aid to regions suffering from storm or hurricane damage.

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