Minnesota applies for weekly $300 boost in federal unemployment

    steve grove
    Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove in March 2020. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

    Gov. Tim Walz announced Friday that Minnesota has applied for President Donald Trump’s federal boost in unemployment benefits that could temporarily raise weekly payments by $300 per week for at least five weeks.

    To be eligible, people must be getting at least $100 per week in unemployment benefits, and must be unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That leaves out about 4–5% of Minnesota recipients, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said.

    After talks broke down between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the additional $600 per week in unemployment expired in July. Trump signed executive orders granting an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits from a fund managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

    Once FEMA approves Minnesota’s application and transfers the funds, the state will start paying the extra benefits, perhaps as soon as next week or the following week. Payments will be retroactive to the week of July 26, Grove said. Those currently receiving unemployment benefits do not need to reapply or do anything other than complete their weekly benefits request.

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said the Lost Wages Assistance Program is important, but not part of a comprehensive package to help people.

    “We hope that our federal partners will be able to come together to provide well-planned and thorough relief for Minnesotans and other Americans in need,” she said. “This crisis continues, the need continues, and we need our federal partners to step up.”

    Grove said more than 900,000 Minnesotans have applied for unemployment insurance, most of them for the first time, and the state has paid out over $7 billion in benefits.

    Asked about whether the plumper payments are an incentive for people not to return to work, Walz said there’s not a lot of empirical evidence that lots of people are staying home rather than working, when given a choice.

    FEMA is authorized to spend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for the program, and DEED anticipates that’s enough to fund the program for between five to eight weeks. Applicants can go to www.uimn.org/lwa for more information.