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New Mexico wants Trump unemployment offer, says no to match

August 13, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is saying yes to President Donald Trump’s offer to extend a weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits — without increasing the state’s standard payout as suggested.

Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley on Wednesday said the state has submitted an application to the U.S. government that would provide an additional $300 per week to residents who receive unemployment benefits. If approved, that would bring the maximum weekly benefit to $761.

Trump’s Aug. 1 executive order called for payments up to $400 each week, one-third less than the $600 people had been receiving under a benefit that expired last month.

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The president said payments would be funded 75% by federal government and 25% by states, despite major local budget shortfalls for states including New Mexico.

New Mexico’s unemployment trust withered to $80 million this month as labor officials seek a $285 million loan from the U.S. Treasury to sustain payments through October. The state is confronting a billion-dollar general fund budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.

State labor officials believe existing payments from the state’s unemployment trust fund can act as a match to lock in a $300 weekly supplement from a federal disaster relief fund. McCamley says the interpretation is based on guidance from the U.S. Labor Department and reactions by states including Ohio.

“If that’s approved, people will see an additional $300 for the weeks they are eligible,” he said.

In a statement about the application, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she still hopes that Congress will pass a new economic aid package to bolster unemployment funds.

“But we will take every opportunity to help families and workers,” she said.

McCamley said it is unclear how soon the additional $300 might be available or how long the extra payments might be sustained to unemployment beneficiaries.

The federal government previously covered the full cost of the $600 supplement that expired in July.