Reeves says unemployed Mississippians will likely receive $300 per week through Trump stipend

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Gov. Tate Reeves speaks to media during a press conference on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

Mississippians unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to soon receive an extra $300 a week in federal unemployment aid from a Trump administration order, but the payments probably won’t last for long, Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday.

“If you get an offer to go back to your old job, or to get a new job, please do so,” Reeves said on Thursday. “We don’t know when this will run out, but there is a set amount of money … and it’s highly likely the money will run out soon.”

If the state is approved for the program, those eligible — people unemployed by the pandemic and receiving at least $100 a week currently in state unemployment — would receive payments of $300 more a week, back-dated to Aug. 1. Reeves estimated it would take the state one to three weeks before it can begin sending payments to people.

Reeves announced that Mississippi is joining 19 other states that had applied for the unemployment money as of Thursday. Eleven have been approved and only one, Arizona, has begun paying the benefit. States are being approved initially for three weeks worth of payments to unemployed people. Trump’s order says the program will run through December, but experts this week said the money allocated is likely to run out long before that.

In a move that had politicians on both sides of the aisle questioning whether Trump was overstepping his constitutional authority, he announced earlier this month an executive order that would provide unemployed people with up to $400 a week in additional unemployment benefits. This comes after Congress’ $600-a-week in federal unemployment assistance ended in July and lawmakers remain in a partisan deadlock over a new relief package. Trump’s order uses $44 billion in FEMA funds for natural disaster relief to supplement state unemployment.

Trump’s order requires a state “match.” It allows states to either add $100 a week in unemployment benefits, bringing people’s total to $400, or to count unemployment benefits they are already paying out toward the $100 match.

Mississippi is choosing the latter, meaning qualified unemployed people will receive $300 a week, not $400.

Reeves said the state could not afford to provide an additional $100 a week in unemployment, which would have cost the state about $20 million to $22 million a week, roughly what the state is already spending on unemployment insurance benefits.

“We don’t have an extra $22 million a week for 8-10 weeks laying around in this state to provide an additional $100,” Reeves said.

In Mississippi, state benefits are a maximum $235 a week, with the average payment at less than $200, compared to the national average of $308 a week.

Nearly 200,000 Mississippians are seeking unemployment, according to the most recent data released Thursday, and the state’s unemployment rate was at 8.7 percent as of June.

| READ MORE: Unemployment rate — and the number of people seeking work — jumped in July as pandemic relief neared an end

Reeves has praised Trump for “trying to step up and help struggling workers” and criticized Congress for its inability to pass a pandemic relief plan.

Reeves said the presidential order comes under the federal Stafford Act governing emergency spending, and that by proxy his administration can apply for and implement the program without state legislative action.

Anna Wolfe contributed to this report.