Minnesota looks for additional $300 in weekly jobless aid

Published 6:21 pm Friday, August 28, 2020

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By Brian Bakst

Minnesota will seek access to additional unemployment benefits for workers in the state facing COVID-19 related job disruptions, Gov. Tim Walz announced Friday.

Walz said his administration has applied for access to a federal program that would tack $300 per week more on unemployment checks for people whose lost wages are directly attributable to the pandemic. That’s half of what had been available until late July, when a different add-on expired.

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“COVID-19 is still on us,” Walz said. “But there are also things we’re doing to make sure we alleviate some of that pain.”

President Donald Trump set up the new program through an executive order after negotiations with Congress fell apart.

If the state’s application is approved, eligible recipients could get retroactive payments for the past month. It’s unclear how long the federal help will last, but state officials anticipate it could run for up to two months.

People who have been receiving unemployment assistance already won’t have to apply for the extra wage assistance.

To qualify, a person must receive at least $100 in state unemployment assistance because that’s the match the state is using to unlock the extra dollars. The state’s general unemployment program bases benefit size on a percentage of regular earnings.

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said the aid will help, although won’t make people financially whole.

“But to be clear an extra $300 per week is not a reflection of the entirety of the burden of this pandemic on Minnesotans,” she said.

Officials say the payments will be retroactive from the beginning of August and are expected to last into September.

Since the pandemic began affecting Minnesota in March, employment and economic development commissioner Steve Grove said the state has processed more than $7 billion in unemployment payments.

“It has really been one of the linchpins of our defense against the economic chaos that this virus has wrecked upon our nation and certainly our state,” Grove said.