Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy’s administration is working to see how it can restore expanded unemployment benefits to about 60,000 people under a new initiative announced by President Donald Trump, but there’s no time frame for getting the program started.
Following a breakdown in Congressional negotiations, Trump, at a news conference at his New Jersey golf course Saturday, said he had taken executive action to restore a $400-a-week boost to unemployment insurance during the pandemic.
But the action faces likely legal challenges, and some experts and politicians around the country say it might not ever be implemented.
On Monday, Dunleavy administration officials said they were still trying to sort out how the program could be put in place in Alaska, where about 60,000 people lost a $600-a-week federal pandemic unemployment payment when Congress let the program expire at the end of last month.
“The governor is 100% committed to helping Alaskans get through this difficult period, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re just trying to make sure that our t’s are crossed,” said Cathy Muñoz, deputy commission of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which oversees Alaska’s unemployment insurance program.
The labor department has presented Dunleavy with three choices of how to respond to Trump’s executive order on unemployment payments, which asks states to pay 25% of the program’s cost, Muñoz said.
One option is simply skipping the program altogether.
The second option is budgeting new money for the state’s share of the new program, which is estimated to cost $100 million through the end of the year — although experts say that the federal account that Trump wants to use for the program only has enough cash to last for about five weeks.
The third option is counting the state’s existing unemployment insurance program as its matching money, which would mean that recipients would only see a $300-a-week boost to their benefits, rather than $400.
Muñoz said it’s too soon to say how quickly the program could be set up, though once it launches, recipients would be eligible for payments dating back to the last week of July. Spending new state money on the program — the second option — may also require legislative approval, she added.