People receive food at a distribution site during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Delays are largely attributable to sluggish state administration, which has been hampered by antiquated, decades-old technology and an elevated level of jobless claims.
More than 25 million workers remain unemployed, according to U.S. Labor Department data. More than 730,000 workers are collecting benefits in Alaska and New Jersey through various programs. (The vast majority are in New Jersey.)
White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Nearly 1.3 million Americans filed a claim for benefits last week, between state and federal unemployment programs — more than six times the level during the same period last year.
The months-long wait for some workers also conflicts with an initial timeline from Trump administration officials such as White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who had telegraphed a wait of about one to two weeks.
In the case of the $300 Lost Wages Assistance payments, states essentially had to build a new system from scratch. The new federal program came with rules and requirements that state officials had to decode and then translate into their technology systems.
For example, workers with a weekly benefit amount below $100 a week aren’t eligible for the subsidy, leaving out hundreds of thousands of people. State officials had to determine how to account for that restriction.
States also had to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Lost Wages Assistance. Some took longer than others to do so. New Jersey was among the last to receive FEMA approval, on Sept. 4.
The wait for $300 payments, which are available to workers who were unemployed between the weeks ended Aug. 1 and Sep. 5, mimics long delays seen earlier in the pandemic.
Many self-employed, gig, freelance and other workers typically ineligible for state unemployment benefits had to wait even longer to get benefits through a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, also created by the CARES Act.
Some states were able to disburse Lost Wages Assistance relatively quickly.
Arizona, the first state to start paying the subsidy, made payments beginning Aug. 17, just a week and a half after program was created. Nearly half had begun issuing the aid by mid-September.