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NM accepted to new unemployment benefit program

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico has been cleared to participate in a federal unemployment booster program that will provide recipients with $300 per week on top of their existing benefits.

But the program leaves out a couple thousand unemployed New Mexicans, who will be ineligible to receive the extra money.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced Wednesday it has received approval and grant funding for the Lost Wages Assistance program, an aid program established through an executive order from President Donald Trump earlier this month.

The program, operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provides an extra $300 per week in federal funding for eligible unemployment recipients.

Stacy Johnston, spokeswoman for the New Mexico Workforce Solutions Department, said federal guidance dictates that recipients are only considered eligible for the federal program if their normal weekly unemployment benefit amount is at least $100, including the allowance for dependents.

Johnston said in New Mexico, the current minimum weekly benefit is $86, plus a $25 bonus for dependents.

Consequently, about 2,000 unemployed New Mexicans received less than $100 per week during that three-week period, and are therefore ineligible for the program, Johnston said.

Recipients also must be eligible for one of the standard unemployment programs and self-certify that they were unemployed, or partially unemployed, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a state news release.

The program retroactively covers a three-week period, from July 26 to Aug. 15. The department has applied for an additional week of funding to extend the supplemental benefit through Aug. 22, and will continue applying for FEMA grants in future weeks to maximize benefits for New Mexicans, according to the release.

NMDWS expects payments under the new program to begin the second week of September, the release said.

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