Some short-term relief is coming for those who’ve lost their jobs because of COVID and have signed up to receive unemployment benefits. For at least three weeks, a $4.5 billion influx from FEMA will give an extra $300 per week in federal benefits starting September 7, to replace in part the prior $600 per week in stimulus benefits, which stopped at the end of July.
The Lost Wages Assistance program, generated by a memo signed by President Trump on August 8, put $44 billion in FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund toward supplemental unemployment benefits. California and about 35 other states will meet the required 25 percent match with the benefits already being paid by the state, as long as it amounts to $100 per week or more. From the state alone, unemployment benefits range from $40-$450 per week. From August 1 to 22, 4.9 million Californians received a total of $4.3 billion in unemployment payments, with $900 million coming from the state.
The first phase of checks is expected to go out starting September 7 for claimants who received state COVID unemployment benefits between July 26 and August 15, the state Employment Development Division announced on Thursday. The second phase addresses claimants who were not able to claim COVID as a reason on their initial application for unemployment benefits. The department’s announcement stated the agency would send notifications by email, text, or U.S. mail in mid-September to claimants for a self-certification and that submitting online at their unemployment insurance account was the fastest way to have the claim processed.
The program includes benefits to business owners, the self-employed, and independent contractors who applied before the program covering them — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — was implemented on April 28. Emails will go out to those who applied but were not able to complete filing a claim.
Initially, $600 in extra federal support was going to workers who’d applied for unemployment benefits through the federal CARES Act, but those funds ran out at the end of July. Although they were renewed in the HEROES Act that passed the House in May, the Senate refused to take up the legislation. Talks through the end of July stalled, and the stimulus package remains in limbo in Congress.
In Santa Barbara, the July unemployment rate of 10 percent was an improvement over the 11.5 percent for June, and employment rose by about 4,800 people. But the 21,400 people out of work that month are a drastic reflection of the effect of coronavirus on Santa Barbarans’ lives.
Before COVID-19 infections reduced life to a careful crawl six feet apart, July 2019 had an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent, affecting 8,000 people in the county. Among cities, worst hit is Lompoc, which had a 12.7 percent unemployment rate, or 2,200 people out of the city’s labor force of 17,400, according to the County Workforce Development Board. Santa Maria’s rate was 10.3 percent, or 4,900 people (out of 48,100), and Santa Barbara’s was 9.9 percent, or 5,000 people (out of 50,600).
Correction: The percentages on unemployed in cities were corrected on Sep. 3 to reflect July, not June.
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