JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Additional unemployment benefits approved by the federal government are expected to reach Alaska residents in six to eight weeks, officials said.
The temporary payments that will increase unemployment assistance by $300 weekly will not be available to all of the state’s unemployed residents.
A previous federal program providing an additional $600 per week for unemployed workers expired July 25 after Congress failed to approve legislation extending the payments.
Without the federal boost, the state’s maximum unemployment payment is $370 per week, plus a stipend for parents.
State governments were given an option to provide an additional $100 per week above what the federal government is funding.
Alaska independent business owners who are part of the so-called gig economy of short-term jobs, such as Uber drivers, will not receive the benefits because states were required to contribute for those workers to receive the additional federal funding.
Alaska had three options for the match and Republic Gov. Mike Dunleavy chose to use the state’s existing unemployment benefits.
“The extension does not cover gig workers since 100% of the funding made available for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is federally derived,” said Cathy Muñoz, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor.
If the state had contributed an extra $100 million to $160 million, gig workers would have been covered.
“I was not going to refuse money because certain sectors may not be covered as well as others,” Dunleavy said.
State Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Tamika Ledbetter said eligible Alaska residents can expect payments dating back to July.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved the state’s funding request and most of the delay is the result of the requirements of starting a new program, Ledbetter said.
The governor said he could not advise Alaska residents how to meet expenses while waiting for the additional funds.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be difficult for people,” Dunleavy said. “This whole thing has been difficult. We’re going to do all we can to get the money moving.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.