New Mexicans left with questions over Trump’s unemployment extension

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – President Trump over the weekend signed an executive order to extend federal unemployment benefits. However, there are a lot more questions than answers right now about how it’s supposed to work, and when the tens of thousands of New Mexicans currently on unemployment might see that federal help.

“I do hair, I’m in a band, and I’m a mom of two,” said D’Ette Kellner. She is also among the more than 130,000 New Mexicans currently receiving unemployment benefits.

For years, she and her family have made a living by playing music. She also supplements income doing hair and makeup for events. But with no events and kids now home full-time for school, like many families, Kellner finds herself in a place she never expected.

“All of us would rather be at work doing what we normally do, and we don’t want to be on unemployment,” Kellner explained. “But the closing of everything has left us no choice.”

D’Ette Kellner and her two children

President Trump over the weekend signed an executive order to provide $400 in unemployment benefits after Congress failed to agree on extending the recently expired $600 a week.

“We still have a lot of pieces of information that we don’t know yet,” said Bill McCamley, Secretary for the New Mexico Workforce Solutions Department. Under Trump’s plan, states may be required to commit to providing $100 of the $400 per week.

“Our estimate is that we would need about $42 million per week for eligible claimants to be able to receive that $300 per week stipend that the federal government said that they wanted to take up,” McCamley said.

McCamley said states still need answers from the federal government about where the $400 per week is supposed to come from. “We don’t know how much money in total is gonna be available, how much of it would be allocated per state, and we don’t know how long it would last for,” he explained.

On Sunday, President Trump said states could apply to have the government provide all or part of the $400 payments. McCamley said it’s unclear how that’ll work, or what the criteria are to apply, meaning New Mexicans likely won’t see that extra $400 anytime soon.

“None of that information has been given to us yet, and so we can’t really work on a way forward,” said McCamley. “We’re gonna look at any program that’s gonna allow people in our community to get through this pandemic in the best way possible,” McCamley said. “But we are much much more strongly in favor of Congress passing an overall package that not only includes more benefits for the unemployed, but also help with our schools as they’re reopening, and how they can do that safely, and also for our state and local governments.”

Meanwhile, Kellner said she’s used to people not having answers at this point. “It’s frustrating but you know, what can I do?” Kellner said.

McCamley said Workforce Solutions is working as quickly as it can to get answers from the Department of Labor and will announce more information when they get it. He also urged anyone seeking help with housing, food, or utilities to go to NewMexico.gov.

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