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. 
Why only 11 states have been approved to offer extra $300 unemployment benefit
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.

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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.

Here's how unemployment benefits vary by state
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.

Here's how unemployment benefits vary by state
How unemployment benefits vary by state