NEW YORK — Andrea Wales lost her job as a stage manager in March when the production she was working on was halted because of the coronavirus. 

She has been collecting unemployment benefits ever since. 

What You Need To Know

  • Roughly 2M New Yorkers have pre-qualified for the new Lost Wages Assistance Program, will get payments starting the week of September 14

  • Approximately 435,000 New Yorkers must submit an additional certification to qualify

  • Department of Labor: the state has paid out $43.7B in benefits during the pandemic

"It has been tight and watching the savings account slowly drain like a bad leak is scary. It is really scary,” said Wales.

Starting next week, Wales and more than 2 million other New Yorkers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic will receive an additional $300 a week for at least three and maybe six weeks.

State labor officials announced that eligible New Yorkers will begin to receive payments retroactively for the weeks ending August 2, 9, and 16.

The state is still waiting for federal approval to distribution the benefits for an additional three weeks.

"I was pre-approved, which is great, I don’t have to do any extra steps in order to get that extra $300, but it was really disappointing to see that the $300 was only for three weeks only,” added Wales.

President Donald Trump created the temporary program after a more generous $600-a-week federal benefit adopted by Congress expired.

The new payments are meant to be stopgaps to help the unemployed until Republicans and Democrats in Congress can agree on a new economic stimulus program.

Without their action, the new payments will end after six weeks -- that's how long the $44 billion set aside by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to last.

Wales said that makes it difficult to plan and budget for the months ahead. 

"You are looking at your savings and saying, going, 'Okay, if I can't find something else to tide me over, how long can I get through?'"

The state says it already has paid out $43.7 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.5 million people during the pandemic.

Economist James Parrott says while the new benefit is better than nothing, it is not enough.

"It's a drop in the bucket so to speak, and really puts spot light on the failure of the Senate to come up with a more thorough and appropriate response," Parrott said.

The state will contact another 435,000 New Yorkers who are eligible to receive the weekly $300 benefit once they submit additional documentation.


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