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Gov. Cuomo won't work with FEMA to get extra Federal unemployment assistance

"I'd rather do business with the old-time 'bookie' on the street corner than do business with FEMA."
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Posted at 11:35 AM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 18:37:14-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — The unemployment status for many New Yorkers, due to COVID-19, has been filled with stress and confusion - a situation that continues to be unpredictable as state budgets are up-side-down and Congress remains stalled on a new stimulus package.

Until the end of July 2020, the Federal Government was providing an extra $600 per week supplemental benefit to those who were off-the-job due to the virus.

When Congress failed to agree on extending the $600 payment through a new stimulus package, President Trump used an Executive Action on August 8 promising unemployed workers they would get $400 per week.

There was a catch. States had to pay 25% ($100) of the supplemental weekly benefit.

"You can't get water out of a stone. That is a fact and we can't pay for it," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

FEMA said states could seek grants to help cover their costs for the payment, and they could get credit for making past unemployment payments so long as they were paying-out at least $100/week for unemployment benefits.

But Governor Cuomo said he will not apply.

"As far as FEMA reimbursing us, that goes down with the other great lie, the check is in the mail," added the Governor.

Cuomo said he has concerns over costs, legalities, logistics, and what the Governor claims are broken promises from President Trump and FEMA about state reimbursement.

"I'd rather do business with the old-time 'bookie' on the street corner than do business with FEMA," said Cuomo during a conference call with reporters on August 19.

The situation now leaves many people, still dealing with coronavirus-related unemployment, wondering how to Make Ends Meet.

New York State has until September 10 to apply for the federal money.

7 Eyewitness News is attempting to get some clarification on this issue to see if and when any federal supplemental unemployment benefits might be forthcoming to unemployed New Yorkers.

A state official told Reporter Ed Reilly that the Governor's office is still seeking answers on open questions. Some of those questions deal with who qualifies, how the logistics of administering the money would change if dealing with FEMA, and how those logistics would need to change again if Congress were to approve a stimulus package with unemployment benefits.

The official said those logistical changes could delay the payment by several weeks.

While the issue for some states only affects thousands of people, here in New York State, the issue will affect millions of people. That could mean unreimbursed costs to the State would be "exponential" if all the details are not sorted out beforehand.

The Governor's office believes the President's Executive Action would add another $4.2 billion expense to a NYS budget that is already dealing with a $14 billion deficit.

However, the state official said the Governor's office is still looking closely at the issue of getting the federal supplemental unemployment assistance.

IMPACT

One of those worried about all the confusion is Stacey Givan from North Tonawanda. "How long can we keep going like this," questioned Givan.

The middle-aged, registered nurse had just started a new job at a doctor's office in March when the pandemic forced the closure of the operation permanently when the doctor decided to retire.

She also had a long side-career as a local musician in a band called "The Fleetwood Mac Experience." Income from that was also shut down due to NYS's strict Covid-19 rules on live music.

Givan, who has two adult children living with her, said she counted on the $600/week federal benefit to pay her bills. When it ended, she was hopeful that President's Trump promise of $400/week would come through.

"I would love it because it is just a temporary thing that would help me," said Givan.

However, with her regular unemployment benefits scheduled to end in two weeks, she is very worried about her financial future.

"It is horrible and terrible. I don't want to have to rely on my kids to pay the bills," said the North Tonawanda woman.

Givan and several local musicians are now circulating a petition on Change.org calling on New York State to loosen the rules about advertising live music at venues so they can make some money to survive.