By Karin Price Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
New Jersey was approved late Friday for an expanded $300 unemployment benefit created by President Donald Trump after Congress couldn’t agree on a new stimulus plan.
But that doesn’t mean the payments will reach unemployed residents any time soon.
It took Gov. Phil Murphy several weeks to decide to apply for the benefit, which was announced on Aug. 7. The state didn’t apply until Aug. 26, in part because of confusion over how the program would be implemented.
Because the funding comes from FEMA, federal rules don’t allow the state to use existing unemployment systems or employees to distribute the funds. That means it will take time before the state can process the payments.
Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said the payments probably won’t be distributed until October, and it will probably come as a lump sum rather than as a weekly payment.
“I know that’s not what someone wants to hear who wants their money now,” he said.
After its initial submission to the program, the Labor Department had to send FEMA some additional information, but the back-and-forth wouldn’t delay the approval process or the timeline, Labor Department spokeswoman Angela Delli-Santi said.
The $300 benefit is meant as a partial replacement for the expanded $600 weekly payment from the CARES Act coronavirus relief package, which expired at the end of July.
The Labor Department previously said not everyone will qualify for the benefit. Those receiving weekly benefits of less than $100 and those whose unemployment does not relate to COVID-19 won’t be eligible.
The state will first get three weeks of benefits for the weeks of Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15. It will have to apply weekly for more funding after that.
The program will continue until the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which funds the program and had a balance of $44 billion last week, runs out or until Congress passes a new unemployment extension.
Benefits are be retroactive to the week of Aug. 1.
A total of 1.54 million New Jerseyans have applied for unemployment benefits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. So far, 1.35 million have qualified for benefits.
The state has paid out $14.7 billion since the middle of March, the Labor Department said.