Delay possible for jobless aid after belated Trump signing

President Trump's belated signing of the COVID relief bill may mean a delay in getting money to hundreds of thousands of Georgia jobless.
President Trump's belated signing of the COVID relief bill may mean a delay in getting money to hundreds of thousands of Georgia jobless.

State officials said Monday that it’s unclear if President Trump’s delay in signing the coronavirus relief package will mean a lapse in federal unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of jobless Georgians.

After bitterly criticizing the bill last week, President Donald Trump signed it late Sunday, the day after several key programs expired. Because of the expiration, those receiving unemployment benefits under programs created by the CARES Act will receive their last payment this week.

The Georgia Department of Labor is unsure how quickly it can implement the new programs, said spokeswoman Kersha Cartwright.

Guidelines for the programs will come from the U.S. Department of Labor, she said.

“The bill says, ‘Do this and this and this and this,’ but the U.S. DOL says how. Will people miss any weeks of payment? I don’t know,” she said.

Several states, including New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maine, have said they expect to make payments without missing a week, according to Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Since March, the states have been managing the federal programs established by the CARES Act. Getting those programs started meant creating new software systems, which took weeks.

The problem this time is not as daunting, Cartwright said.

Unemployment benefits will be extended 11 weeks, with those who are jobless receiving a $300-a-week subsidy in addition to federal or state benefits.

The $900 billion package also includes one-time stimulus payment of $600 to Americans who made less than $75,000 in adjusted income last year, but that will be handled by the Department of the Treasury, not the states.

About 12 million jobless Americans, including more than 300,000 Georgians, have been receiving weekly pandemic-linked unemployment payments. An estimated 85,000 Georgians had already exhausted their eligibility before the programs ended.

With COVID-19 still rampant and jobs scarcer than jobseekers, economists say the relief package will keep many families from disaster.

Dervina Knowles, a 34-year-old single mother, lives in Gwinnett County. She lost her job as a substitute teacher. She filed for unemployment benefits, but said her payments were delayed for months for reasons she did not understand.

After repeated emails and phone calls, she was told that a payment would be in her account soon. Since she has already dug into savings to pay rent and utilities, she is hoping to be eligible for some of the benefits in the new relief package.

“Getting back pay is some relief, but it’s not over,” she said.

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