New Unemployment Claims Up Again. Good Thing We Renewed Those Bene ... Oh Sh*t

With the Senate on recess until Labor Day and Donald Trump busy pretending he wasn't seething at every moment of the Democratic National Convention, not to mention all the nice strangeness of the online DNC itself, you may have missed yesterday's weekly unemployment report. We're sure Trump and his pals hope you missed it, so we need to briefly call your attention to the thing: After a brief dip the week previous, the Department of Labor reported new unemployment claims for the week ending August 15 zigged up by 135,000, to over 1.1 million.

That means that for all Donald Trump's happy talk about the stock market, the economy is definitely not roaring back. The CARES Act's emergency unemployment benefits of $600 a week expired at the end of July, and with the Republican convention coming up next week, there's no reason to think Trump will return to talking to the Democrats until September, or even until Labor Day. Mandatory reminder: House Dems passed their stimmy bill IN FREAKING MAY, which would have renewed the emergency unemployment. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have repeatedly offered to negotiate down its $3 trillion total, but nah, Republicans would rather accuse Democrats of doing nothing, even though passing a new stimmy would probably help a lot of Republicans up for reelection.

And on top of all that, the New York Timesreports that Trump's shitty executive action to provide $300 a week in temporary help has yet to actually start reaching much of anyone. As of yesterday, only one state, Arizona, had actually started paying out the benefit. Oh, and you'll love this: Only three weeks of the (reduced by half) benefit have been approved initially, perhaps so FEMA can have some money left in the kitty for, you know, HURRICANE SEASON.

On the up side, Donald Trump has taken a strong stand against protecting sharks, and in favor of Jerusalem.

As economists soberly say, these latest numbers suggest the "recovery" is slowing, as employers either keep laying people off due to the continued coronavirus outbreaks, or hesitate to hire again because here comes cold weather in a few months and why even bother. Trump's stopgap executive action, which robbed $44 billion from FEMA disaster funds, is still spinning its wheels, as the Times details:

[By] Thursday, fewer than a quarter of the states had been approved for the program, and only Arizona had put it into action.

Florida, New York and Texas have held off on applying as they seek guidance on the program's rules and mull the technological needs for processing payments. Even states that intend to take part, like Pennsylvania, have raised doubts about whether it is workable.

Just how unworkable is that, Penny Ickes, spokesperson for Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry? "The president's convoluted, temporary, half-baked concept has left many states, including Pennsylvania, with more questions than a clear path forward." Gosh, how ungrateful!

Still, some states are jumping through a bunch of shit-covered hoops that could have been avoided if the GOP had considered a stimulus renewal sooner than two weeks before the CARES Act benefits expired.

While longer-term federal relief is in unresolved, FEMA has approved Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah for access to three weeks of funds for the $300 supplement. Officials from FEMA and the Labor Department said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday that FEMA had approved $2.4 billion in grants so far and that an additional eight states had applied for funds.

Arizona was the first state to make the so-called lost wages payments, sending $96 million to 320,000 people on Monday and Tuesday. But the timeline for payments "will be all over the map," potentially taking several weeks, said John Pallasch, the assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department.

Several states had to update their computer systems just to handle the new weird benefit scheme that will soon run out.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Wednesday he was skeptical the Trump plan was even legal, saying,

If the states need to reinvent their unemployment insurance administration program, it will be weeks or months before anyone gets a check. [...]

I'd rather do business with the old-time bookie on the street corner than do business with FEMA.

The Times notes that the funds Trump shifted around for his unemployment scheme will only pay out $300 a week (down from the $400 he initially announced) and will only last four or five weeks at most. On the up side, they'll be retroactive to August 1, so those who qualify will get money for the month the GOP has been fucking around. But that also means the payments won't last much beyond the beginning of September, which might spur Republicans to negotiate in earnest, unless they decide dragging it out longer would hurt Dems more, or they simply stop giving a shit about appearances.

But hey, there's sure to be a lot of red meat being flung around at the GOP convention next week. It should be entertaining, if not particularly filling.

[Department of Labor / NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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