Mainers out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic can receive an extra $300 in unemployment benefits through a federal grant starting Friday evening, the state’s labor department announced.
Maine was one of the states to opt in to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Lost Wages Assistance program, which provides matching funds that allow states to pay an extra $300 in unemployment benefits to anyone already receiving at least $100 a week in state unemployment benefits.
The funds will retroactively cover six weeks of unemployment benefits dating back to Aug. 1, when a $600 supplemental payment provided for under the federal CARES Act ended. The first payments being made Friday night will cover benefits for the weeks ending Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15.
The Department of Labor expects to make payments covering the following three weeks next week before the supplemental program ends.
The payments come as 35,500 Maine residents filed for continued unemployment benefits last week and another 22,000 filed for ongoing benefits through the federal assistance program. Unemployment in the state remains above benchmarks set during the Great Recession, and some residents are still struggling to get benefits.
The FEMA program, created through executive order by President Donald Trump, was meant as a stopgap for additional funds as Congress deadlocked over sending another aid package to states.
That looks increasingly uncertain as the Senate spiked a GOP-crafted aid package that was much slimmer than the $2.2 trillion package delivered in March. Democrats said the $500 billion measure left out too many needy people; some Republicans said it was too big. Federal lawmakers have until the end of the month to craft a new budget.