Personal Finance

Will you get an extra $300 or $400 unemployment benefit? It depends on your state

Key Points
  • A recent executive measure signed by President Trump created a "lost wages" grant program offering up to $400 a week in extra unemployment benefits. 
  • Most of the 19 states that applied for the assistance as of Thursday are paying a lower amount. Three states, Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia, are opting for the full $400. 
  • The difference is due to federal rules around cost-sharing. 
VIDEO1:3801:38
Why only 11 states have been approved to offer extra $300 unemployment benefit

States are beginning to mobilize to pay out additional benefits to unemployed workers.

Some are paying more than others.

President Trump signed an executive measure Aug. 8 that offers a $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits.

More from Personal Finance:
Don't count on that extra $300 in unemployment benefits soon
Evictions expected to skyrocket as protections come to an end
Why there's still hope for second $1,200 stimulus checks

The aid is part of a "lost wages" grant program being overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But states can opt to kick in an extra $100 a week — for a grant total of $400 a week, in addition to current state benefits.

Kentucky and Montana

It appears just three states — Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia — are opting to pay $400 instead of $300.

As of Thursday, Montana was the only state to implement the $400 option, according to a FEMA spokeswoman. The federal government approved Montana's grant application this week.

West Virginia submitted an application but hasn't yet received approval.

Kentucky officials planned to submit a grant application on Thursday, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. Paying out the $400 weekly benefit would be contingent on federal approval.

VIDEO2:3402:34
How unemployment benefits vary by state

Officials in Colorado said they haven't yet decided on their approach.

That states would opt for a lower sum is due to specific program rules.

The lost wages assistance was originally billed as a $400 weekly unemployment boost.

It amounts to $300 from the federal government and $100 from the state, due to a cost-sharing requirement that asks states to pick up 25% of the tab.

However, states can count the benefits they're already paying as fulfillment of that — meaning they don't have to kick in any additional money.

That's the route most are taking.

"The majority of the states so far have indicated they'll take the $300 federal payment with the match being provided by their existing [unemployment] payments," Keith Turi, FEMA's assistant administrator of recovery, said Thursday.

Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia officials indicated they'll use federal funding allocated to states through the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief law enacted in March, to pay for their $100 weekly portion.

Other states may not have had the ability to draw from that Coronavirus Relief Fund.

About 25% of the money in the fund had been spent as of June 30, and states may have already earmarked a large share of the remainder to future costs, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Many states are already borrowing from the federal government to cover current unemployment obligations and may have felt they couldn't afford to pony up another $100 a week from their own coffers.

19 states approved or applied

Eleven states had received federal approval for the lost wages grants as of Thursday — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah.

Arizona started paying benefits out on Monday, the first state to do so.

Eight others had applied as of Thursday and are awaiting final approval — Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia, according to FEMA.

States are only guaranteed three weeks of funding for the program. Additional funding will evaluated on a week-by-week basis.

States will pay benefits going back to the week ended Aug. 1.

The federal aid comes at a time when around 28 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits and more than 1 million Americans file new applications for benefits each week.

An extra $600 weekly unemployment supplement enacted by the CARES Act ended at the end of July.

That's left unemployed workers with just their state benefits for about three weeks. States paid $308 a week in June, on average.

VIDEO2:3402:34
How unemployment benefits vary by state