New Jersey has applied to be part of a federal program that will provide additional benefits to unemployed workers in the Garden State who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo said the state has applied for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Lost Wages Supplemental Assistance program, which will provide up to $300 per week to eligible individuals, probably for only a total of seven weeks.

He explained because this is an entirely new program funded by FEMA and not the U.S. Labor Department, “we cannot use any of our current unemployment trust fund monies, accounts, staff or infrastructure. It will not be easy or quick to get this additional money into the pockets of those who need it most.”

Asaro-Angelo said the state Labor Department is working with the feds “as well as our partners in other states to make sure we administer this program in the smartest way possible with minimal needed action from the roughly 800,000 claimants who are to receive this income supplement.”

Nevertheless, he suggested those eligible to receive the extra assistance probably won’t get it until October.

So what will New Jerseyans need to do to apply for this additional money? Asaro-Angelo said right now no one is sure.

“That’s what we’re still waiting for guidance for from both FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor,” he said. “It’s a very strange situation.”

Gov. Phil Murphy said this is not ideal but “if there are pennies out there we can gather and dollars and send them to folks who need it most I know we will do it.”

Murphy said Congress still needs to take action.

“Only reauthorizing the $600 weekly federal unemployment would provide the security that so many of our residents and frankly fellow Americans need,” he said.

Asaro-Angelo agreed this assistance, made possible by a memo signed by President Donald Trump, is appreciated but it falls short of what the state needs.

“We were desperately hoping to see this program spur further congressional action to continue the $600 weekly supplement that did not leave behind any unemployed beneficiaries,” he said.

New Jerseyans receiving less than $100 a week in unemployment benefits are excluded from this supplemental benefit.

New Jersey and other states will need to reapply for the benefits after the first three weeks of he program. FEMA has a spending cap of $44 billion for the grant program, which will be halted if FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund balance drops below $25 billion.

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