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FEMA agrees to fund extra $300 a week in Maryland unemployment benefits

Some unemployed Marylanders could begin receiving an extra $300 a week in benefits starting in late September now that the state has received approval for at least $431 million in federal funds, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday.

Maryland was approved for an initial three-week period, and can reapply if the $44 billion in funding for the Lost Wages Assistance program has not been exhausted.

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The weekly supplement will be retroactive to the week ending Aug. 1, and the state anticipates to begin payments in late September.

The extra $300 a week is half of what those left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic had been receiving under a previous aid package before it expired at the end of July. Without the extra federal assistance, Marylanders’ unemployment benefits are generally about half their gross weekly pay, up to a maximum of $430.

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After congressional negotiations to extend the original supplemental benefits ended in a stalemate, states were offered the option of applying for a new program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA.

“It is important to recognize that this is only a stopgap,” Hogan said in a statement, “and we continue to urge Congress to come together and approve federal aid for the states to help support our economic recovery.”

Hogan announced Wednesday that the state had applied. Maryland is the 11th state to receive approval.

Critics have said the new supplement won’t help as many jobless Americans or provide as much stimulus to the battered economy as the initial extra payments.

They also say administering and distributing the funds could prove challenging to state unemployment insurance offices, which have been overwhelmed by the volume of applications for benefits. As of the end of June, Maryland’s unemployment insurance division had received about 625,000 claims for benefits.

To qualify for the new supplement, claimants have to be eligible to receive at least $100 in regular weekly benefits and certify that they have lost work due to the coronavirus disruptions.

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