LI job growth has slowed as the unemployed await promised $300 aid boost

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Long Island reported anemic job growth last month as jobless residents and New Yorkers across the state waited anxiously for a boost of $300 in weekly unemployment payments to hit their bank accounts in the coming days.

In August, Long Island was still down 152,200 jobs from a year earlier, the state Labor Department reported Thursday, with a gain of 7,500 nonfarm jobs on a month-to-month basis. The monthly gain is well below the 17,800 jobs gained in July, and the pace of growth has slowed since the 78,000 new jobs reported in June.

“The overall pace of job growth on Long Island slowed,” said Shital Patel, labor market analyst in the Labor Department’s Hicksville office. “The large gains in jobs in May, June, and July reflect the phased reopening of the economy.”

Patel said that the slower job growth in August is likely due to businesses relying on smaller workforces to carry them through this period of weakened economic activity.

“Businesses that have been able to remain open are bringing back the employees that are essential employees, and it will take a longer time to bring back everyone that they had,” she said.

Meanwhile, jobless Long Islanders are waiting for an extra $300 in federal funds to supplement their weekly unemployment aid payments.

The boost to regular jobless benefits comes from the Lost Wages Assistance program, a FEMA-backed initiative created by presidential memorandum in early August. In New York, up to 2.4 million unemployment recipients are eligible for the federal funds. Two million are prequalified, though approximately 435,000 jobless state residents must submit additional certification to qualify.

New Yorkers who were unemployed for the three weeks following July 31 should expect up to $900 in booster payments initially, according to the state. FEMA, which backs the program, said it will fund a total of six weeks of payments.

The state Labor Department said on Twitter Thursday that many payments had been released and that the money “typically appears in your bank account or on your debit card in one to two business days.”

And FEMA has said that LWA will not disburse funds beyond six weeks, effectively ending the program before state residents have even received their first payments.

Initially, the length of the FEMA funding was dependent on whether the Disaster Relief Fund balance would fall below $25 billion, whether the $44 billion set aside for the new program was depleted, or whether Congress enacted a replacement relief program.

“It’s like a zombie benefit,” said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project. “For states that got the money out right away, they’re not paying the benefit anymore.”

“I think FEMA made the calculation that if they pay everyone six weeks of benefits, then that’s going to be the point at which they’ve spent the $44 billion.”

In a statement issued to Newsday Thursday, FEMA said, “Based on state and DOL projections and current state spending rates, FEMA will make grant awards … for a full six weeks. States should plan to make payments to eligible claimants for no more than six weeks from the week ending Aug. 1, 2020.”

The disaster relief agency added that it has apportioned funds to make sure that it will “fund six weeks in $300 supplemental unemployment benefits to every state and territory that has applied for this assistance by Sept. 10.” New York was approved for the grant funds on Aug. 23.

To date, the agency has distributed more than $35 billion to 49 states and other territories. South Dakota is not participating in the program.

The state Labor Department also released data Thursday showing a decline of almost 600 new jobless claims on Long Island last week compared with the week before, from 5,866 to 5,278.

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