Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that the state is applying for the FEMA Lost Wages Supplemental Assistance Program.
The good news is that the approval process should only take a day or two, Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said. And that those who have filed for unemployment in the first three weeks of August should get the extra pay for those weeks.
Then, there’s the bad news:
- Recipients will only get $300 (Murphy said the state does not have the money to provide the additional $100);
- It will take time to set up (it’s from a new source);
- The money for the payouts is coming from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which most feel will run out of money in seven to nine weeks (and that was before the storms that are expected to hit the Gulf region this week).
“This is not ideal, but if we can gather dollars and send them to folks in our state, we will do it,” Murphy said.
“This is coming from an completely unrelated source than the (U.S.) Department of Labor, so it is not an easy lift — but it’s a lift we think is worth it to get more money into people’s pockets who need it the most.”
Asaro-Angelo warned that this will not be quick or easy to do — and warned that its benefit will not last long.
“As we already are in week five of this program, eligible New Jersey recipients will likely receive it as a one-time retroactive lump sum payment,” he said. “Because this is an entirely new program, funded by the federal disaster relief agency, for which we cannot use any of our current unemployment trust money, accounts, staff or infrastructure, it will not be easy or quick to get this additional money into the pockets of those who need it most.”
Asaro-Angelo said the state is doing what it can to prepare.
“We continue to work closely with FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as our partners in other states, to make sure we administer this program in the smartest way possible, with minimal needed action for the roughly 800,000 claimants are to receive this income supplement,” he said.
Asaro-Angelo said more information will be provided when the state is approved.
Murphy said he still is holding out hope for more, and made a strong push for the federal government to do more, including the reinstatement of the $600-a-week program that ended at the end of July.
“While we will investigate every possible penny that we can get into the pockets of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey families, only reauthorizing the $600 weekly federal unemployment would provide the security that so many of our residents — and fellow Americans, for that matter — need,” he said.
Asaro-Angelo echoed the point.
“To be perfectly clear, the creation of this program does not go far enough to help those in need,” he said. “In fact, it leaves our neediest workers, those receiving less than $100 in weekly unemployment benefits or those whose unemployment might not be directly related to COVID, out.
“We were desperately hoping to see this program spark further congressional action to continue the $600 supplement that did not leave behind any unemployed beneficiaries and was more beneficial to workers in a high-cost state like New Jersey and did not require a whole new application process.
“We remain hopeful that Congress will do the right thing by extending a program that does not exclude those most in need, would not require weeks of new back end programming, wouldn’t require a separate FEMA application process and wouldn’t end the vital program that put nearly $8.4 billion into accounts of our workers, who through no fault of their own have made sacrifices in the name of public safety.”