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States Owe Billions Under Trump Plan   08/10 06:25

   Whether President Donald Trump has the constitutional authority to extend 
federal unemployment benefits by executive order remains unclear. Equally up in 
the air is whether states, which are necessary partners in Trump's plan to 
bypass Congress, will sign on.

   FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) -- Whether President Donald Trump has the 
constitutional authority to extend federal unemployment benefits by executive 
order remains unclear. Equally up in the air is whether states, which are 
necessary partners in Trump's plan to bypass Congress, will sign on.

   Trump announced an executive order Saturday that extends additional 
unemployment payments of $400 a week to help cushion the economic fallout of 
the pandemic. Congress had approved payments of $600 a week at the outset of 
the coronavirus outbreak, but those benefits expired Aug. 1 and Congress has 
been unable to agree on an extension. Many Republicans have expressed concern 
that a $600 weekly benefit, on top of existing state benefits, gives people an 
incentive to stay unemployed.

   But under Trump's plan, the $400 a week requires a state to commit to 
providing $100.

   Many states are already facing budget crunches caused by the pandemic. Asked 
at a news conference how many governors had signed on to participate, Trump 
answered: "If they don't, they don't. That's up to them."

   Trump expressed a different view on Sunday night, following a day of state 
officials questioning how they could afford even $100 per person in additional 
weekly payments. He told reporters as he returned to Washington that states 
could make application to have the federal government provide all or part of 
the $400 payments. Decisions would be made state by state, he said.

   Several state officials questioned how Trump's initial proposal would work 
and often expressed doubt that they could afford to participate at the level 
Trump initially set without using federal funds.

   Aubrey Layne, secretary of finance for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a 
Democrat, said in a phone interview Sunday he believes it would be feasible for 
Virginia to participate in such a program if states are allowed to use money 
that's been allocated to them under the already passed CARES Act. He said his 
preliminary understanding is that states can do so, but he and others are 
waiting to see the rules published.

   The better solution, Layne said, would be for Congress to pass legislation.

   "It's ludicrous to me that Congress can't get together on this," he said. "I 
think it would have been better for the president to use his influence in those 
negotiations, rather than standing on the sideline and then riding in like a 
shining knight."

   Details about the program were confused on Sunday --- and that was even 
before Trump's declaration that states could ask the federal government to pay 
all or part of the $400 week payments.

   On CNN's "State of the Nation" White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow 
said conflicting things about whether the federal money was contingent on an 
additional contribution from the states. Initially Kudlow said that "for an 
extra $100, we will lever it up. We will pay three-quarters, and the states 
will pay 25 percent." In the same interview, though, he later said that "at a 
minimum, we will put in 300 bucks ... but I think all they (the states) have to 
do is put up an extra dollar, and we will be able to throw in the extra $100."

   A clarifying statement from the White House said the "funds will be 
available for those who qualify by, among other things, receiving $100/week of 
existing assistance and certify that they have lost their jobs due to COVID-19."

   Several advocacy groups that follow the issue, though, said it's clear the 
way the executive order is structured that the federal money will be contingent 
on states making a 25 percent contribution.

   New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, called the plan "an impossibility."

   "I don't know if the president is genuine in thinking the executive order is 
a resolution or if this is just a tactic in the negotiation," Cuomo said. "But 
this is irreconcilable for the state. And I expect this is just a chapter in 
the book of Washington COVID mismanagement."

   In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said on CBS' "Face the Nation" 
that the plan would cost his state $500 million to provide that benefit for the 
rest of the year, and called Trump's plan "not a good idea."

   "I could take that money from testing --- I don't think that's a good idea," 
Lamont said.

   On CNN, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine praised Trump for issuing the order.

   "He's trying to do something. He's trying to move the ball forward," DeWine 
said.

   Still, he was noncommittal about whether Ohio would participate.

   "We're looking at it right now to see whether we can do this," he said.

   In Maryland, Michael Ricci, spokesman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, said 
in an email that "we will wait on new guidance from US Department of Labor 
before looking at any (unemployment insurance) changes."

   In Minnesota, Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner 
Steve Grove said his agency is "awaiting further guidance from the U.S. 
Department of Labor."

   Kevin Hensil, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, said 
"reducing the benefit by a third will make it harder for families to get by and 
it places a larger financial burden on states." He said state officials are 
studying the impact of the cuts.

   In Louisiana, Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. John Bel 
Edwards said "Right now we are reviewing the President's order to determine 
exactly what the impact to the state would be."

   And in Michigan, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a press release 
that Trump "cut federal funding for unemployed workers and is requiring states 
that are facing severe holes in our budgets to provide 25% of the funding."

   On ABC"s "This Week," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called 
it "an unworkable plan.

   "Most states will take months to implement it, because it's brand new. It's 
sort of put together with spit and paste. And many states, because they have to 
chip in $100, and they don't have money, won't do it," Schumer said.

   Many states struggled to adjust outdated computer systems to accommodate the 
$600 payment, which along with the massive influx of new claims resulted in 
long delays in providing benefits. Reprogramming the computers again to 
accommodate the new amount could result in similar glitches.

   On ABC, Kudlow said that many of those outdated systems have since been 
upgraded.

   "I don't think there will be a huge delay. Labor Department has been working 
with the states. The states are the ones that process the federal benefits 
before. So, I don't see any reason why it would be all that difficult," he said.

 
 
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