More than 30 million Americans were receiving the weekly $600 enhanced unemployment benefits before it expired the week ending July 25.
On Saturday President Donald Trump signed a memorandum that would grant $400 enhanced weekly unemployment benefits to those out-of-work Americans if their state picked up $100 of the tab.
That order by Trump announcement came after Democratic and Republican leaders were unsuccessful Friday in their negotiations for a broad stimulus bill, which would have included an extension or replacement for the $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit.
The memorandum raises a lot of questions for jobless Americans. Here are some of the most pressing.
How much will the enhanced unemployment benefits pay out per week?
The memorandum signed by Trump authorizes governors to use federal funds to make a $300 payment to eligible claimants for the week ending August 1. This would go to jobless Americans on state unemployment rolls, or who are eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the CARES Act—which includes jobless part-time workers and 1099 contractors.
Originally it appeared that states must pony up $100 per week for the federal match for the $300 weekly payment to be sent. However, on Monday, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said Ohio, the country’s seventh-largest state, would accept the federal government’s $300 per week enhanced unemployment benefits but would not throw in an additional $100 to jobless Ohioans. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio can do this by counting $100 from its current unemployment payments. That means jobless Ohioans will get an enhanced payment of $300, not $400.
On Sunday, the U.S. Department of Labor let states know they could use this workaround, of counting existing payments toward the $100, and still get the $300 weekly federal funds. Given the financial constraints and budget shortfalls states are facing, it’s likely many will follow Ohio’s lead and not pony up the additional $100.
How long will the enhanced unemployment payout for?
The $44 billion allocated by Trump for the enhanced unemployment benefit is estimated to fund the weekly benefit for five weeks, or through August 29, according to a report by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Who gets the enhanced unemployment benefit?
Unlike the $600 enhanced unemployment benefit, this new benefit will go only to Americans who are currently receiving $100 or more per week in state unemployment benefits. The enhanced benefit gets paid on top of state benefits.
Do I get nothing if my state doesn’t opt in?
Jobless Americans in states that either do not throw in an additional $100 in funding—or count $100 of current benefits toward it like in Ohio—will not receive the $300 in enhanced unemployment benefits.
Where does the federal money come from?
President Donald Trump’s memorandum would pull $44 billion in federal funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for the federal portion of the $400 weekly benefit.
Is Trump’s enhanced unemployment benefit memorandum legal?
Trump is allocating the enhanced pandemic unemployment benefit by tapping FEMA dollars. However, as my Fortune colleague Jeff Roberts reported Monday, current law prevents Americans already on state unemployment benefits from receiving unemployment benefits in this manner. And more than 16 million of the 30 million Americans who were receiving the $600 enhanced unemployment benefit before it expired in July were also on their state unemployment rolls.
That points to looming legal challenges.
Could Congress still reach a deal on a stimulus package?
President Trump’s memorandum came after unfruitful negotiations between Democratic and Republican leaders on Friday for a broad stimulus bill, which would have included a second round of stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits to help Americans cope with the pandemic.
At first it looked like Trump signing the memorandum would pour cold water on negotiations. However, on Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared on CNBC and told viewers that the White House is still open to a stimulus bill that includes stimulus checks, another round of forgivable PPP loans, and money for schools and hospitals.
“We’re prepared to put more money on the table,” Mnuchin said Monday on CNBC. “Again, if we can get a fair deal we’re willing to do it this week.”