Wisconsin residents to see $300 increase in unemployment benefits under new Trump program

Wisconsin residents receiving unemployment payments may notice a boost in their checks in the coming weeks, thanks to a federal grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency established by the Trump administration. 

Wisconsin was approved for the Lost Wages Assistance on Tuesday, according to a release from FEMA.  The program will provide an additional $300 a week to those receiving unemployment, funded through FEMA grants, and encourages up to an additional $100 to be offered by states.

Wisconsin was approved for three weeks of funding, said Ben Jedd, the communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.  Wisconsin will not be providing the additional $100, Jedd said. 

The grant aims to help the millions of Americans who lost their jobs and businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic. The money will be in addition to filers’ typical unemployment benefit and will be retroactive to Aug. 1. 

FEMA will now work with the Department of Workforce Development to establish a system that will disburse the payments. Jedd said it will take 6 to 8 weeks to program the state’s unemployment system, but that payments will start going out as soon as the system is ready. The state has already applied for an additional week of funding, and will continue to do so until funds run out, Jedd said. 

The money stems from an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Aug. 8, authorizing $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to be used to supplement lost wages, the release said.

The fund providing the money for the unemployment program comes from the same source that pays for recovery efforts from natural disasters and other emergencies that overwhelm states’ resources, according the FEMA website

The unemployment program will run through Dec. 6 or until the Disaster Relief Fund reaches $25 billion, according to the order. 

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The order came on the heels of a failure by Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress to agree on and pass another round of relief during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in the expiration of a $600-a-week supplement to state unemployment benefits.

That money was a part of the first relief action, the CARES Act. The money from that stimulus was also used to provide $1,200 checks to individuals and money for small businesses, among other relief projects. 

Wisconsin is among 44 states to receive the FEMA grant. The first states to be approved for the program were Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana and New Mexico, which were all approved on Aug. 15. Gov. Tony Evers applied for the grant in August

While the unemployment money will provide relief for those facing unemployment, the Congress is still battling on what other relief will be provided for Americans. Republicans said Tuesday that the Senate will likely take up a new stimulus bill next week, according to USA TODAY, but it would likely face opposition in the Democratic-led House. Talks over a second stimulus stumbled in August, after Democratic lawmakers wouldn’t agree to pare down their relief proposal. 

Laura Schulte can be reached at leschulte@gannett.com and twitter.com/SchulteLaura.