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Illinois To Apply For $300 In Extra Weekly Unemployment Benefits From Federal Government

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois is applying for the extra $300 in weekly supplemental unemployment benefits authorized by President Donald Trump earlier this month, joining at least 30 other states that have applied or already been approved for the additional funds.

More than half of U.S. states have been approved for the additional unemployment benefits, but Illinois is not among them yet. Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday that state officials will be applying soon.

"We have begun that process, and indeed it takes a lot of setup on an internal basis for us to move forward with that, and so that's what we've been doing," he said.

The governor did not say how long the process would take for Illinois.

The aid is geared toward helping the 28.2 million workers who are currently collecting their states' regular unemployment benefits, which typically replaces only a fraction of a worker's regular income.

Illinois is among the last to apply, and many are asking what took so long.

The latest state to receive approval was Connecticut, which received the green light from FEMA on Monday. Another 29 states have also been given the nod from the federal agency. The aid is funded by $44 billion in funds allocated for natural disaster relief.

Even so, it's unclear how many states are currently disbursing the extra benefits, with FEMA officials last week saying that only one state so far — Arizona — had actually begun payment of the extra $300 per week. Federal officials have said the time required to get the money into the hands of jobless workers would "vary wildly," with some states needing as many as six weeks to disburse the funds after receiving approval from FEMA.

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.

Four-year-old Akira's care is a priority for her mom, Charity Parker, who also cares for her grandmother, Rose Parker.

"I don't want to bring COVID back to her," she said.

Parker said she has had two family member who have died from the novel coronavirus. She has stopped working as a nail technician to prevent any more from getting sick. Her weekly unemployment check is now less than $200.

"There's five of us in the home, and that's not going to work to sustain a family of five," she said.

Parker said the $300 per week the state has applied for is "the difference between the pavement and a bed."

"It's aggravating," she said. "Anyone who's taking their time with this ought to be ashamed of themselves."

Mark Overbey said he is failing to see the urgency in state government, and he is not alone.

CBS 2 has received email after email. There have been more than a dozen unsolicited news tips from people asking what the state is doing to help them make ends meet as jobs are shut down and businesses boarded up.

"I have to sacrifice," Oberbey said. "Do I pay this bill or do I buy something that I need?"

He said an additional $300 a week would help him pay rent and some of his bills.

A spokesperson for Pritzker's office said the state is working on this and will provide more information as it becomes available.

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 percent loss," he said in a statement.

The states that have been approved for the extra aid are: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington.

South Dakota is the only state that so far has declined the extra aid.

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.

There are already signs that the loss of extra jobless aid is affecting consumers' spending and attitudes. Consumer confidence fell to 84.8 in August, below the consensus estimate of 93, according to the Conference Board on Tuesday.

"We suspect that the still-widespread incidence of Covid-19 infections is undermining confidence, and the expiration of federal unemployment benefits is also dampening spirits," noted Oxford Economics chief U.S. financial economist Kathy Bostjancic in a Tuesday report. "Households are becoming more cautious in their outlook for continued healing of the economy."

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CBS News contributed to this report.)



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