Unemployed US workers will see additional payments this week

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus epidemic will start receiving improved unemployment benefits this week as states deploy hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid, said Tuesday state officials.

FILE PHOTO: People gather at the entrance to the offices of the New York State Department of Labor, which have closed to the public due to the epidemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York, the United States, on March 20, 2020. / Photo taken on November 26, 2018 / REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

Congress approved an additional $ 600 weekly payment for unemployed workers as part of an unprecedented $ 2.3 trillion bailout signed by President Donald Trump on March 27.

It could take several weeks before this money enters federal and state bureaucracies in the bank accounts of the millions of Americans who have been kicked out of work.

However, eligible New York residents will see additional benefits paid this week, said Deanna Cohen, spokesman for the State Department of Labor.

Missouri and Georgia are also planning to start sending payments the week of April 12, officials said, and Indiana will start the following week.

Officials from Maine and California said they had not yet determined when they could distribute the money. Other states did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Experts say some states may need several weeks to get the money out as they struggle to process a torrent of new jobless claims.

“People are concerned that some benefits will be paid so that people can pay their rent on May 1. This can be a challenge, ”said Michele Evermore, analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Reinforced unemployment assistance, which stands at $ 260 billion, aims to ensure that those who are laid off do not see a sharp drop in their income. He adds $ 600 a week to the payments generally made to the unemployed, who represent a fraction of their previous wages.

It also extends benefits to part-time workers and the self-employed who previously did not qualify.

State unemployment systems struggle to keep up with the deluge of candidates as businesses across the country shut down to minimize the spread of the pandemic, which has killed more than 11,000 people and infected more than 375,000 in the states -United.

Initial weekly jobless claims peaked at over 6 million last week, almost 10 times the previous record set in 1982. Claimants say they have encountered broken down websites and long waits.

States will have to reprogram their IT systems to provide the new benefit, which could be a daunting task.

More than half still rely on decades-old mainframe systems that run on outdated software.

In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has asked for volunteers capable of working with the COBOL language, first introduced in 1959, to reprogram state computers.

Other states with newer systems have also suffered from problems.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hastened to consolidate a system put in place in 2013 that was unable to keep up with unemployed applicants, causing widespread outrage. State officials have known about the problems that changed the recipients for years, but have failed to fix them, according to a review found last year.

Democrats in Congress say the Trump administration should do more to help. In a letter released Tuesday, 37 Senate Democrats called on the United States Department of Labor to provide technical support to states and to get them money quickly to cover administrative costs.

Report by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Leslie Adler and Tom Brown

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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