KEY POINTS

  • Trump's delay in signing the relief bill allowed two unemployment programs to expire
  • Several states would have to wait up to seven weeks to begin issuing unemployment benefits
  • State governments must wait for guidance from the Department of Labor on implementing the unemployment provisions

Millions of jobless Americans may have to wait for weeks before receiving their weekly unemployment benefits, even after President Donald Trump signed the $900 billion bipartisan legislation into law late Sunday. 

The economic relief bill will provide unemployed citizens $300 weekly federal unemployment aid for 11 weeks, until March 14. However, it is unclear when all states can begin issuing the checks. 

Congress passed the bipartisan bill on Dec. 21, but Trump delayed its signing. The holdup caused the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs from the CARES Act to expire. 

While some states could start distributing the $300 federal aid in the next few weeks, others — including California, Michigan, Texas and Utah — may have to wait up to seven weeks.

Labor officials across several states say they need to wait for guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on implementing the unemployment provisions. States must code in the new provisions and pay employees, procedures that vary by state. State governments also must wait until the federal government releases funds.

“Unfortunately, by delaying the signing of the bill and letting these programs lapse, President Trump likely increased the delay these workers will experience in getting their [unemployment] benefit payments,” Elizabeth Pancotti, a policy adviser for progressive think tank Employ America, said.

While some states will likely start disbursing aid in the next few weeks, others may take as many as five to seven weeks, Pancotti said. That would mirror workers’ experience over the summer with the prior $300 weekly boost to benefits via a Lost Wages Assistance program, she said.

In Michigan, officials will be updating the state's Unemployment Insurance Agency systems to extend the $300 benefits, which will add to the delay of the issuance of payments. The UIA will be closed for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. 

“There will be a delay in benefits for those currently enrolled in these federal benefit programs. The USDOL guidance will provide new rules that must be interpreted and reviewed in Michigan. We will have to make updates to our systems to extend benefits and renew the FPUC $300 supplemental payments,” a statement posted on Michigan’s website read. 

“Due to the timing of the legislation’s finalization, there will be a delay in certification and payment of benefits for those currently enrolled in the federal PUA and PEUC programs beginning Dec. 26. This will only be a disruption and claimants will be made whole once the extensions are fully implemented,” the statement continued. 

Not all states would experience delays in the release of unemployment benefits. In Rhode Island, workers who enrolled in expiring programs are expected to receive the $300 aid next week, according to the state’s labor and training department.

“PUA claimants can continue certifying as usual and will be paid next week. There will not be a gap in payments, and you do not need to reapply,” the statement read.

 

US President Donald Trump is facing a potential congressional override of his veto of the defense bill US President Donald Trump is facing a potential congressional override of his veto of the defense bill Photo: AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS