Update 5 p.m., April 9: City Administrator Rashad Young said during a daily conference call with D.C. councilmembers that he expects the Department of Employment Services to begin paying the extra $600 in unemployment benefits authorized by Congress by April 21.
The extra federal funds are available from the beginning of April through July, and the payments will be retroactive, Young says. The District has already received $62 million in its Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, he says.
Independent contractors, who were recently made eligible for unemployment benefits, won’t get a check until April 28, due to the amount of time it will take to update D.C.’s benefits system.
In addition to the maximum $444 in weekly unemployment benefits that the District will distribute, out-of-work D.C. employees are eligible to receive an extra $600 per week thanks to the massive federal relief package Congress passed in late March in response to the coronavirus. The federal government also expanded unemployment benefits to those working as independent contractors.
But local workers will have to wait another few weeks to see the boost in their weekly checks, according to Department of Employment Services Director Unique Morris-Hughes.
Sitting along side Mayor Muriel Bowser at her daily press briefing, Morris-Hughes couldn’t provide an exact timeline for the necessary updates to the unemployment insurance system that accepts applications and dispenses benefits. Local officials have been talking about updating the antiquated system since the Adrian Fenty administration. The outdated system has sowed confusion and frustration among the tens of thousands of individuals unable to work due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, New York will start paying its residents the extra $600 immediately, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today, and will use the federal funds as reimbursement. Residents in Missouri and Indiana will start receiving the federal boost before the end of April, CNN reports, though other states, like D.C., are still figuring out how and when their out-of-work residents will see bigger checks.
The District’s employment services department posted guidance on its website, which asks contract workers to “PLEASE BE PATIENT” while the agency updates its benefits system. Workers can email email@example.com to get a notification when the update is complete and they can start applying for benefits.
Morris-Hughes said those contract workers who applied for benefits before Congress expanded eligibility will need to reapply.
“Everybody who is eligible for unemployment benefits will be paid,” she said.
D.C. has received more than 54,000 unemployment claims since March 13 and issued more than 20,000 payments, totaling $7.5 million, District data show.
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