How President Trump’s ‘Low Wage Assistance’ order impacts unemployed workers

Posted at 3:03 PM, Aug 20, 2020

After dipping below a million new claims a week for the first time since March, jobless claims are back up above that mark.

The U.S. Department of Labor just reported at least 1.1 million people filed new jobless claims last week, while there were another 14.8 million continuing claims.

For all those on unemployment, what is not back is the $600 pandemic unemployment assistance. Instead, President Trump signed an executive order for Lost Wage Assistance, while Congress is still in a stalemate over a new stimulus package.

Until the president’s order kicks in, after states apply for the help and get approved, everyone on unemployment is being forced to live off their respective state's normal unemployment benefit. In many states, the average benefit payout is meager, at best.

“The national average for unemployment dropped from nearly $400 a week to just $308 a week in June of this year, because so many low wage workers were losing their jobs,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.

Stettner has been heavily researching and analyzing unemployment benefits with the New York and D.C.-based independent think tank. Part of his research and analysis shows low-wage workers could be getting far less than that average state weekly benefit. For example, in a state like Hawaii, some low wage workers could be getting the state’s minimum payout of just $5 a week right now. In other states like Louisiana, Connecticut, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Delaware, minimums aren’t much higher, ranging between $10 to $20 per week.

“All but nine states have minimum benefits below $100 per week,” Stettner added.

Understanding states’ minimums and how little some workers could now be getting per week is important because it will impact their eligibility for the president’s executive order.

“If you don’t get more than $100 in unemployment benefits a week from the state, you can’t get Trump's new Lost Wage Assistance,” explained Stettner.

Lost Wage Assistance is an additional $300 a week from the federal government for those on unemployment and is supposed to be available until Dec. 27, 2020. Essentially, right now, it is the only stopgap in place to help those unemployed, but it won’t help those who may need help the most. That’s why many are urging Congress to quickly come to an agreement on the next stimulus bill that helps everyone struggling.

“I think there is the will to continue federal unemployment employment benefits, Trump’s executive order. Trump’s executive order promises them through December 27, but there is not enough money to fulfill that promise. So, I think there is the will to do the right thing but there is a lot getting in the way,” said Stettner.