The good news for those seeking extra unemployment benefits: New Jersey was — as expected — approved by FEMA for a grant under the Lost Wages Assistance program, hours before Labor Day weekend began.
The bad news? It’s unclear how long it will take to get the extra $300 a week into the pockets of those filing. Worse? One recent estimate is that each state only will get about six weeks of benefits.
Simply put, there is a limited amount of Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that can be used.
The program, which was created by an executive order by President Donald Trump on Aug. 8, is limited to $44 billion that is being redirected by FEMA.
Robert Asaro-Angelo, the commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Labor & Workforce Development, has said from the start that the limited funds will cap the length of time recipients get aid. The guesstimate was seven to nine weeks on Aug. 26.
This weekend, an expert told Yahoo Finance that six weeks is a more likely number.
Andrew Stettner, an unemployment insurance expert and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said that is a more likely figure, now that 48 states have applied for the grant.
When the money will be distributed — or how it will be distributed — also is unclear.
Stettner told Yahoo Finance he thinks the funds will become available in September or October.
Asaro-Angelo said previously it may come as a one-time distribution.
How a potential weekly or one-time payment is paid out is another struggle.
Since the program is not part of the traditional unemployment system, Asaro-Angelo said the state will have to set up another system to release the benefits.
“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,” he said last month.
On Friday, FEMA said it will work with New Jersey to create such a system.
Also unclear is the biggest question: Whether states that were slow to apply would receive less money.
New Jersey officials previously said questions regarding the program and its setup led to a delay in the state’s application.
This much we do know: This program will be nothing like the earlier unemployment assistance program, which provided an extra $600 a week through the end of July.