The new Lost Wages Assistance program ($300/week in unemployment benefits) from the Trump Administration is a woefully inadequate response to our national emergency.

Because Congress could not come together on a solution, the Administration made a unilateral, token response. It allocated Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) dollars to be used for unemployment assistance. This program is inadequate for so many reasons.

First, there is only a limited amount of FEMA money available. This puts a short cap on the program. It is projected that if all states participate, there will only be money available for approximately three weeks of payments.

This is not even close to a long-term solution.

Secondly, the FEMA program is not an unemployment insurance (UI) program.  To use the program’s funds, each state will have to design a distribution system that will mesh with its current UI system. This is a lot of administrative and logistics work that will take a lot of manpower and a lot of tax dollars for just three weeks of payments.

Inexplicably, the program also requires that every recipient be eligible for at least $100 in state benefits. There are a number of reasons why some people may not qualify for more than $100 in UI benefits in Indiana. One reason may be that they simply do not earn enough money to qualify, since UI benefits are determined based on the recipient’s income while still employed. This means some of the neediest people will not qualify. A recent estimate from DWD indicates that there may be approximately 30,000 Hoosiers who do not qualify.

The delays in this program are simply unacceptable. It is already the second week of September. The $600/week payments ended a month ago, and there is no guess yet about when the federal program guidance will be available for DWD to implement the program—and thus no idea when the new $300 payments might start. 

In the meantime, we have real Hoosier families dealing with real unemployment issues.

This program is inadequate at best, and at worst, a sham grab for votes just two months before the election.

Hoosiers don’t have time for smoke and mirrors in a time of widespread need like this. If the federal government refuses to do anything meaningful, it is on the shoulders of state leaders to get us through this mess. Indiana currently has CARES Act money available.  We need to get it out to the Hoosiers who need it most.