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Mississippi to apply for jobless aid, won’t pay extra $100

(AP) — Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that Mississippi will apply for a federal program to expand unemployment for residents who lost work because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, he said the state is not opting to pay an additional $100 per person, per week to bolster checks, meaning the maximum extra money residents can expect is $300 a week.
The option recently provided by the White House involves less than the $600 a week in federal aid that unemployment recipients received until the assistance expired on Aug 1. Congress has been unable to agree on an extension amid an impasse on a new round of coronavirus aid.
Trump’s executive memorandum, issued Aug. 8, gave states the option to apply to the federal government to expand unemployment benefits by up to $400 per week if state governments shoulder 25% of the financial burden — $100 a week.
Reeves said Mississippi will not be able to afford the 25% match. He said that, if approved for the program, the state chose a second option offered by the federal government, which allows states to accept $300 a week per person and use the amount already being paid to jobless residents per week to meet the $100 requirement for states.
“We don’t have an extra $22 million a week laying around to provide that additional $100,” Reeves said Thursday.
It is unclear how long the extra payments would last, and it may be only for a short time.
The maximum unemployment a person can receive in Mississippi is $235 a week, meaning with the federal benefit, the maximum someone filing a jobless claim could make under the new program in the state is $535. Only those who make at least $100 a week on unemployment and lost work due to the pandemic will be able to apply, per federal guidelines, Reeves said.
If Mississippi is approved, payments are likely to begin in a few weeks and will be retroactive to Aug. 1, when the last unemployment package ended.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved at least nine states and the additional $300. More than 10 other states, including nearby Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee, announced plans to participate in the program this week and are waiting on approval.
Additionally, Reeves signed an executive order Thursday banning tailgating, picnicking and rallies before football games. Reeves said games will be limited to 25% capacity this season and fans will have to practice social distancing of at least 6 feet. The first college games are expected to take place at the end of next month.
The Health Department said Thursday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had at least 75,449 reported cases and at least 2,190 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday evening. That’s an increase of 894 confirmed cases and 27 deaths from numbers reported the day before, with two deaths occurring between July 24 and Aug. 9 and identified later from death certificates.
The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most but can be more severe or fatal for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems.