Wisconsin residents receiving an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits are being asked to pay back the money if Congress enacts new legislation to replace the jobless aid created by President Trump’s executive action last month.
Labor and unemployment experts worry that this could leave many out-of-work Americans confused about what to do at a time when the money ordered by Trump has already been delayed and Congress has failed to pass a new aid package for the jobless. Some lawmakers say it’s unlikely that more financial relief would reach Americans before November.
If Republicans and Democrats do agree to new aid in the future, unemployed people who take the federal benefit could be seen as double-dipping: They would receive retroactive pay from the new legislation even though they already been paid through Trump’s executive action. “All of this confusion just makes for more administrative burdens at a time when people are going longer without benefits, living standards are declining and poverty is rising after millions lost their jobs through no fault of their own from the pandemic,” says Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. A spokesman from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development said the state is following guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is funding Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance program, and the Department of Labor. FEMA, however, said that states administer the program while the agency provides the funds.
It’s still unclear how widespread this is beyond Wisconsin. Colorado, Indiana, Georgia, Iowa, Alabama, Idaho, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Alaska and Nebraska said they aren’t advising recipients to return the money. The Louisiana Workforce Commission said it will monitor legislation from Congress, and added that it would ensure that any future guidelines are met as provided from the Department of Labor.
The $300 weekly benefit is retroactive to Aug. 1 for workers who qualify. Wisconsin’s DWD doesn’t anticipate that it will be forced to claw back the aid from claimants, although its own website posted the warning to out-of-work residents who tried to file unemployment claims.
It remains unclear whether future aid from Congress will be made retroactive to Aug. 1, meaning the payments would overlap, a spokesman said. The DWD is anticipating that if Congress passes new legislation, it will begin once Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance program lapses for the week ended Sept. 5 so that there would be no overlap, they added.