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Fed $300 checks to unemployed NYers may still be weeks away

About 30 states have been approved for President

About 30 states have been approved for President Donald Trump's Lost Wages Assistance program, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Credit: TNS/Dreamstime

ALBANY — The Cuomo administration isn't saying how long it will be before unemployed New Yorkers get their $300 weekly grants ordered by President Donald Trump nearly a month ago.

Cuomo spokesmen didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment this week on when qualified New Yorkers would receive the checks or for how many weeks the checks would be sent. The federal grants would be in addition to state unemployment benefits and replace the $600 weekly checks the federal government provided until July 31 for workers whose jobs were lost in the virus.

On Aug. 18, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had said that it “will be weeks or months before anyone gets a check.” The next day, he said that whenever unemployment benefits change, the state must “redo the software,” an effort that took “weeks” in the past.

The “lost wages grants” were ordered by Trump on Aug. 8 in an executive order to help unemployed Americans through the COVID-19 emergency while debates over a bigger benefits package languished in Congress.

The federal government said it’s up to the state to determine when the federal grants totaling $44 billion are provided to unemployed New Yorkers. “New York state would be the appropriate entity to direct any questions about lost wages grant estimates since they are executing the federally funded program,” said Dan Caetano of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday.

Cuomo had delayed the state’s inclusion in the program until Aug. 19, after two dozen states had already applied for the federal funding. Cuomo questioned the legality of the president allocating funding rather than Congress and said New York couldn’t afford to pay for the $100 match that was then required under Trump’s program. FEMA ultimately made the match optional and New York applied and was approved for the money.

A FEMA spokesman said Wednesday that the distribution of checks will vary with states as they adjust their systems.

New Mexico, the first state to apply for the grants, expects checks will start going to unemployed people in the second week of September, according to that state’s officials.

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