More help for the unemployed

States have until March 31 to make updates to their unemployment applications clarifying who is newly qualified for benefits.

President Donald Trump’s delay in signing a pandemic relief bill will not cost more than 21,000 unemployed Granite Staters a week’s worth of benefits or an initial $300 supplemental payment as originally feared, according to a state official.

Those payments, however, may be delayed.

What's Working

What’s Working

“While the reversal on the guidance was good news, the difficulty going forward for New Hampshire and other states is that we do not yet have federal guidance on implementation of the extended programs, and verbal comments from (the U.S. Department of Labor) have suggested necessary changes from how the original programs were developed,” said Richard Lavers, deputy commissioner at Employment Security.

“However, this current week will be payable if someone is eligible, but payment may be delayed,” Lavers said Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Labor informed states Sunday morning that because the bill wasn’t enacted by last Saturday, the week ending Jan. 2 would not be payable, Lavers said.

“Then on Monday after the president signed the bill Sunday night, New Hampshire along with enough other states raised questions about this interpretation, which resulted in USDOL issuing new verbal guidance on a national call with states that there would not be a gap week between those weeks eligible for payment under the original CARES Act and those weeks eligible for payment under the extension,” he said.

The 21,000 recipients who were at risk of losing a week’s benefits included gig workers and the self-employed, as well as people citing a COVID-19-specific reason not normally covered by the unemployment system.

People who exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits also in most cases could collect an additional 13 weeks under a federal program that was extended. Under the bill Trump signed Sunday, many people will gain an additional 11 weeks of eligibility for a total of 50 weeks.

Payments shouldn’t be delayed for another group of 21,000 Granite State recipients collecting under state unemployment insurance during their first 26 weeks.

Anyone collecting benefits will receive a $300 weekly federal supplement through mid-March.

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both D-N.H., said in a statement Monday that New Hampshire was expected to receive approximately $2 billion in COVID-19 relief from the new law, including more than $684 million for unemployment benefits.

Those estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service don’t include all sectors of the state’s economy that will receive federal relief, according to the senators.

What's Working

What’s Working

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

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