Alaska unemployment payments with $300 increase set to begin

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 3:50 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Eligible Alaska residents receiving unemployment checks from the state are expected to receive a $300 increase to their weekly payments beginning next week, officials said.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy approved the increase in August to replace a $600 increase from Congress that ended in July, The Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

The increase will be paid from a federal disaster relief fund for unemployment aid to counter the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump in August signed an executive order allowing states to use the funds.

Alaska has traditionally paid about $250 in weekly unemployment benefits.

The program will cost $62 million in federal money, said Cathy Muñoz, deputy commissioner at the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The increased payments will be retroactive to July 31, when the $600 weekly increase ended, Muñoz said in a statement Monday.

“The eligibility period is for six weeks and will be from the week ending Aug. 1 until the week ending Sept. 5,” Muñoz said. “The payments will be made on a weekly basis, and not as one lump sum.”

Most recipients will qualify, including those with children, said Lennon Weller, an economist with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Alaska residents who did not receive at least $100 in unemployment since the week ending Aug. 1 are not eligible.

About 40,000 people in Alaska received unemployment benefits in the last week of September, down from a weekly high of 68,000 recipients in mid-May. About 12% of the state’s workforce receive the assistance.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.