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Utah officials unsure about Pres. Trump’s executive order to extend unemployment benefits

Utah State Capitol building in August 2020. (Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – State officials expect people to have a lot of questions about President Trump’s order that extends unemployment benefits by $400 per week. However, it will likely be a while before Utahns would see any of that money, if ever, because officials have a lot of questions of their own.

Hesitation on extending unemployment benefits 

President Trump’s order would give eligible people an additional $400 per week in benefits.  If a state wants to participate in this new program, they would have to pay for 25% of that unemployment insurance. 

The Associated Press reports a lot of states are already strapped for cash because of their COVID-19 pandemic response, and some governors believe the president’s program is impossible.

(The Department of Workforce Services center in Salt Lake City. Credit: Paul Nelson)

When will Utah make its decision on this program?  Department of Workforce Services Assistant Deputy Director Nate McDonald said there’s no way of knowing, yet.

“We’re still a ways out and a lot needs to be determined before we can announce anything about what the state of Utah will be or not be doing,” he said.

Just like when the CARES Act was introduced, states depended on instruction from the Department of Labor (DOL)  to tell them how funds were supposed to be allocated and what benefits were supposed to be handed out. 

McDonald explained it took a few weeks for the DOL to do that with CARES Act and he believes the same could happen with the president’s executive order.

“We’re just relying on the Department of Labor to give us more clarifications on what the guidance is,” said McDonald. 

Even when with guidance, McDonald said distributing those funds wouldn’t be something the state could do instantly.

“One they got the guidelines, states then had to build the programming into their technology to process and implement those new programs,” according to McDonald.

He said the governor’s office hasn’t decided if the state will participate.  If the state decides to take that federal funding, it would likely be up to lawmakers to determine how we would pay for Utah’s share. 

 “That’s something that, through the governor’s office and through the legislature, those decisions would have to be made,” McDonald said.