Kentucky among first states to apply for full $400/week federal unemployment program

Gov. Beshear provides Wednesday update on COVID-19

FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday Kentucky will apply for a federal program to provide an extra $400/week to Kentuckians unemployed or partially unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The so-called Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance Program draws on $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. States will receive $300/week per unemployed person and have the option of adding up to $100/week in matching assistance from their own sources. The total can’t exceed $400/week per person.

The program was authorized by President Trump in an Aug. 8 memorandum to replace previous federal assistance that totaled $600/week per person but ended July 26.

The FEMA money will continue until it is exhausted, which Beshear said could be a matter of weeks, or Congress passes unemployment assistance legislation to take its place.

States must submit grant applications for the FEMA money. Several states have already been approved, most for the $300/week option. Montana is the only state to have applied for and received approval for the $400/week option.

Beshear stated the Kentucky Labor Cabinet will submit an application Thursday for the $400/week option at a weekly cost to the state of $8 million. The state will use CARES Act dollars to provide the matching $100/week.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said he plans to pursue the $300/week option, though he has yet to announce the state’s application.

The approval is expected to take 48-72 hours. Once approved, the cabinet will reconfigure computer systems to make the payouts. That will take two weeks, Beshear said, meaning payments will go out in early September.

The governor said reconfiguring the systems wouldn’t be necessary had Congress passed additional federal assistance and disbursed it in the same way as the $600/week payments. He added he holds out hope Congress will do just that in the future.

The benefits will be applied retroactively to the date previous federal assistance ended July 26, Beshear said, though FEMA’s website explains states may only provide retroactive payments going back to Aug. 1.

FOX19 NOW has reached out to the governor’s office for clarification.

“While there is still some uncertainty surrounding this program, it is just too important to get these dollars to our families,” Beshear said.

The assistance will run through Aug. 16, covering three weeks of payments. Beshear said he plans to extend unemployment assistance afterwards, but doing so will depend on whether FEMA has any money left to hand out.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Beshear also announced 655 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional deaths Wednesday.

The case number continues a trend going back to last week indicating a plateau of the virus in Kentucky, but after Tuesday’s report of 12 additional deaths, the state seems to be experiencing a surge in COVID-19-related mortalities predicted by the July surge in cases.

“I don’t remember two days where we had this many deaths back-to-back, and it’s the result that we talked about earlier, that when you have 3,000 cases a week, the deaths follow a couple weeks after,” the governor said. “We’re at that point now.”

The state’s positivity rate remained stable at 5.41 percent.

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