New benefit offers $300-boost to unemployed in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Thanks to the Lost Wages Assistance program, those left unemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic will get a boost in their paychecks for the next three weeks.
“The initial approval is that in mid-September, if you were earning at least $100 in unemployment for the period of July 25 to Aug. 15, then you will get an extra $300 a week for those three weeks,” said Christina Oxley, regional business services coordinator for the Colorado Workforce Center. “Basically, they will only see that for three weeks, but there is a chance that not all the states will apply to be a part of this, and there might be extra money to allocate at the end of that period.”
The program was created by an executive order signed by President Donald Trump after the $600 Federal Unemployment Compensation payment program provided through the CARES ACTS expired at the end of July.
Oxley and many other residents in Colorado were hoping to see the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate come up with longer-term legislative action to help those who are currently on unemployment benefits and unable to find a position in the competitive job market.
Trump’s executive order will provide some relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has access to $44 billion in disaster relief dollars to fund unemployment systems nationwide. Colorado was one of the first states to be approved for the program in early August, but it’s still unclear how much money the state will receive as part of the program.
Joe Barela, executive director of the state labor department, said the additional benefit will put at least $265 million into the hands of the unemployed workforce who have been impacted by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Currently, there are about 658 people in Routt County who are receiving continued claims through the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which is supported by contributions from employees and employers. That number is down from its peak of 1,955 at the end of April.
Oxley does not question the extra $300 will benefit those struggling economically during the pandemic, but she isn’t sure if the Lost Wages Assistance program will have a significant impact.
“Speculatively, I think it’s going to go to things like rent, mortgages, utilities and groceries, and it’s not going to show up in consumer spending,” Oxley said. “The $600 made a lot of people either close to whole or even maybe a little bit better than that.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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