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Legislature passes bill to send $1,800 in extra jobless benefits to previously ineligible residents

A goodbye sign hung last month in the window of the now-closed Pour House in Boston's Back Bay.
A goodbye sign hung last month in the window of the now-closed Pour House in Boston's Back Bay.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Legislature passed a bill Monday intended to deliver $1,800 in unemployment pay to thousands of Massachusetts residents who previously didn’t qualify for bonus benefits from the federal government. Governor Charlie Baker signed the legislation shortly after approval.

The federal Lost Wages Assistance program provided $300 a week, but only for laid-off workers who were already getting at least $100 a week in benefits from the state. Under the program, which used funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, about 695,000 claimants in Massachusetts received a total of $1.3 billion in six installments covering the weeks ended Aug. 1 through Sept. 5.

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The new legislation authorizes the Baker administration to boost state benefits to $100 a week, for those same six weeks, for recipients who didn’t qualify earlier for the FEMA money.

The move will cost the state about $3 million but will yield as much as $31 million in federal cash, said Senator Patricia D. Jehlen, a cosponsor of the bill.

“The money will get spent locally by Massachusetts residents for rent, for food, and other expenses,” Jehlen, a Democrat from Somerville, said.

The state Department of Labor estimated that 17,000 residents would receive the FEMA payments, according to Jehlen.

President Trump ordered FEMA in August 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. Although the final FEMA payments were disbursed last month in Massachusetts, the Baker administration said it expected additional money to be available for the previously ineligible recipients.

The Senate bill was filed less than two weeks ago by Jehlen and Senator Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat. The House version was introduced by Representative Stephan Hay of Fitchburg.

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Larry Edelman can be reached at larry.edelman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeNewsEd.