Recipients of Massachusetts unemployment benefits will get a temporary boost of $300 a week “in coming weeks,” the Baker administration said Monday.
The state’s announcement follows approval Friday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency of Baker’s application for money to cover three weeks of enhanced checks.
President Trump ordered FEMA earlier this month to distribute up to $44 billion to states after Congress failed to extend a program that had provided $600 a week in extra jobless benefits under the CARES Act, the big pandemic rescue legislation that was enacted on March 27. Trump bypassed lawmakers by allocating FEMA disaster relief money.
Trump’s order initially called for a $400-a-week bonus, including $100 funded by the states. Terms were revised after cash-strapped states complained they couldn’t afford the extra payments. Massachusetts, which had the highest jobless rate in the country last month, has been forced to borrow more than $1 billion from the US Treasury to pay traditional state benefits. Average weekly claims in June were $425.
Governor Charlie Baker said last week he didn’t like Trump’s approach to providing more aid.
“But if this program is there and it turns out to be the only thing that’s there, I don’t think Massachusetts should pass on that,” he said.
More than 28 million people received the $600 payment during the week it ran out at the end of July, and it was perhaps the most important piece of the social safety net amid record unemployment caused by the pandemic.
The state Department of Unemployment Assistance said those eligible for jobless pay for the weeks ended Aug. 1, Aug. 8, and Aug. 15 will see the money after the agency makes necessary adjustments to its computer system. The state will automatically add the bonus to checks for most recipients.
At least 29 states have been approved to get the FEMA funds for three weeks, including New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It’s not clear whether there will be enough money to cover additional weeks.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated one of the eligibility weeks for the $300 payment. It is the week ended Aug. 8.