Mr. Leske, 52, said that work began to dry up in March and that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — an emergency federal program for freelancers and others not eligible for state benefits — had been crucial in keeping him afloat, especially with the $600 weekly federal supplement.
He expects to be out of work through September 2021 as schools hold off on plays and assemblies. But Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expires at the end of this year.
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.
The challenges include reprogramming antiquated state computer systems to handle the new benefit — a factor that caused weeks of delays with the $600 supplement — and dealing with an additional federal agency, FEMA.
“We have to build a whole new subset system with new rules and new reporting requirements with a department that we’re not really familiar with,” said Bill McCamley, the secretary of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. “We want to dot all of our i’s and cross all our t’s.”
In a call with reporters on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York expressed concern about the legality of Mr. Trump’s executive action and said that “if the states need to reinvent their unemployment insurance administration program, it will be weeks or months before anyone gets a check.”