On August 8, Trump's administration announced a new $300-per-week unemployment benefit to support struggling Americans to pay for necessities. However, some citizens were not eligible to receive the payment as it required an individual to be receiving at least $100 in state benefits to qualify.
New weekly $300 unemployment benefit
The weekly jobless benefit took its funding from a $44 billion disaster relief fund after the White House and Congress failed to extend the $600 unemployment benefit that expired on July 31. Initially, the government announced the weekly payment would amount to $400 but later added that $100 would be taken from state funds to add to the benefit.
According to AP News, over one million unemployed Americans would become ineligible from receiving the weekly $300 check due to several restrictions and bureaucratic challenges. Several low-paid workers who receive less than the $100 state benefit threshold will not be given any funding.
The issue widens the inequality problem that disproportionately affects Black and Latino workers, who are statistically more prone to be working in lower-end jobs. The list of individuals who do not qualify for the benefit includes several gig and contract workers.
Adding to the challenges, the program by Trump's administration requires workers who are applying for the benefit to prove that they lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, which could potentially result in most people losing the opportunity. Another hurdle is that the program's funding could run out in as short as a few weeks.
On Thursday, the US government said that the number of citizens who applied for unemployment benefits declined to 881,000. Experts believe the numbers suggest that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to leave businesses with no choice but reduce their employees.
Strict eligibility requirements
The new weekly $300 unemployment benefit's requirements could undermine the administration's efforts in supporting jobless Americans during an unprecedented time of high unemployment, as reported by Mercury News.
An economist at the University of Illinois, Eliza Forsythe, stated that an estimated six percent of people who receive state unemployment aid, which numbers around 840,000, will not be eligible to receive the new $300 federal benefit because they were earning too little before the pandemic started.
Nearly 200,000 individuals in California who are recipients of unemployment benefits earn less than $100. North Dakota officials revealed that they estimate that only 41 percent of people who receive jobless aid are eligible for the new weekly $300 unemployment benefit. Up to 347,000 recipients in Texas, which make up about one-fifth of the state's total, are not eligible for the program.
A senior fellow at the Century Foundation, Andrew Stettner, said five states, responding to the issue at hand, said they would push to increase their minimum weekly payout to $100 per individual to ensure that more people are eligible to receive the new unemployment benefit.
A policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, Michele Evermore, said that the new requirement of the weekly $300 jobless aid that has individuals proving their jobless was coronavirus-related would disqualify many.
Evermore added that people who receive state benefits have never had to answer the question before. They might not fully understand that their eligibility for the new $300 benefit would depend on their answer.
Stettner said that some people would think that the government asks them whether they were infected with coronavirus or not and noted that the virus itself did not cause several layoffs during the pandemic.