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Trump’s extra $400 unemployment benefit is actually $300—and will be retroactive to August 1

August 14, 2020, 9:23 PM UTC

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After stimulus talks fell apart between Republican and Democratic leaders, President Donald Trump decided to bypass Congress and signed a memorandum that would grant $400 enhanced weekly unemployment benefits to out-of-work Americans if their state picked up $100 of the tab. This week the White House clarified that states could use the federal funds to send out $300 enhanced unemployment checks, without throwing an additional $100 in.

When considering states’ financial constraints during the pandemic, it’s likely most will opt for the $300 per week. Ohio and Alaska already said they’ll do just that.

The $300 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit replaces the $600 enhanced benefit that expired the week ending July 25. The White House has already made it clear the benefit will be paid retroactive to the week ending August 1—which is critical given many states have said it could take weeks or even a month to get the money flowing.

The $44 billion allocated by Trump for the enhanced unemployment benefit is estimated to fund the weekly benefit for five weeks, or through the week ending August 29, according to a report by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. And there still remains the possibility the memorandum will face a legal challenge.

The White House is allowing states to get around throwing an additional $100 in by counting $100 of existing unemployment insurance payments. However, that means jobless Americans who receive less than $100 per week in state benefits wouldn’t be eligible for the $300 per week enhanced benefit. The White House has yet to clarify that concern.

As of the week ending July 25, 15.5 million jobless Americans—along with another 11.9 million jobless on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation—are no longer receiving the $600 enhanced unemployment benefits.

Democratic and Republican leaders remain deadlocked in their negations for a broad stimulus, which would include extended enhanced unemployment benefits. And on Thursday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the chamber for recess until September 8, indicating if stimulus talks resume, it’s not likely to be before then.