N.Y. to apply for federal funds to pay unemployment benefits

ALBANY — New York will apply for coronavirus unemployment money President Trump made available after the feds dropped a requirement making states pony up a portion of the funds.

State budget director Robert Mujica said Friday that the Empire State will sign up for the so-called Lost Wages Assistance program, which will provide $300 a week to out-of-work New Yorkers in addition to state benefits.

“As Governor Cuomo has said, politics does not impact policy — especially during a pandemic — and if New Yorkers are in need, this administration will do everything we can to support them,” Mujica said in a statement.

Cuomo has balked at the prospect of applying for the program in recent weeks following Trump’s promise to make up to $44 billion available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.

The president initially said $400 in benefits would be available for the unemployed, but the catch was that states would be on the hook for a quarter of the money.

The U.S. Department of Labor issued new guidance this week that said states could forego contributing to the program.

Trump’s plan is meant to replace the $600-a-week emergency federal supplement that expired last month. Negotiations for another COVID-19 relief bill extending that program have stalled in Congress.

States have the option of meeting the 25 percent match by allocating Coronavirus Relief Funds from the CARES Act or other state funding. They can also choose to use state money set aside for regular state-administered unemployment benefits.

The governor, who has estimated the cost-sharing scheme could add $4 billion to New York’s ballooning deficit, railed against the president’s program earlier this week, saying he had major concerns about logistics and legalities.

“I’d rather do business with the old-time bookie on the street corner than do business with FEMA,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“You can not get water out of a stone. That is a fact and we have a $14 billion deficit, and we can’t pay for it,” he added. “All the governors will tell you that if the states need to reinvent their unemployment, insurance, administration programs there will be weeks or months before anyone gets a check.”

So far, 13 states have been approved for the program with only Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia agreeing to dole out the additional $100, according to FEMA.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1