Coronavirus Updates: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Aid Program Restarts In NY Next Week After Weeks Without It – Gothamist

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This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, September 10th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

Here’s the latest:

5:50 p.m.: More than one month after President Donald Trump issued an executive action to cut pandemic unemployment payments in half, out-of-work New Yorkers will once again receive those payments beginning next week after the former congressional program expired in late July.

Cash-strapped New Yorkers who lost their jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the city through both a health emergency and historic economic crisis stopped getting $600 pandemic unemployment benefits from the federal government in late July after Congress failed to extend the payments. In response, Trump issued an executive action extending payments to the end of the year at half the amount—$300 a week for those getting at least $100 in typical state unemployment payments.

The brand new program required each state’s labor department to determine how to administer the payments under a new program, sparking fury among governors, including Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Now, starting next week, about 2 million New Yorkers will start getting payments for the so-called Lost Wages Assistance program, the NYS Department of Labor announced.

Another 435,000 have to submit an additional certification through a system that launches Friday.

“Throughout this crisis, states’ unemployment systems have been pushed to the limit and constantly-changing federal guidance—including this haphazard Presidential executive order—have only delayed our efforts to get benefits to New Yorkers in need,” DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement on Thursday. “But we have worked day and night to stand up this program, and millions of New Yorkers will see payments next week.”

The department said it would email recipients about whether they need to submit an additional certification or not. The online system for that will be sent out Friday. Claimants can also submit the additional certification through an automated phone system at 833-491-0632.

The first rollout of payments will cover benefits from the first three weeks of August.

About 20 states have begun issuing payments under the Lost Wages Assistance program, less than half of those that have applied, according to CNBC. The New York Post reported several states applied for the program before New York had even appliedten days after the program became available. New York was approved for the FEMA grant on August 23rd.

The Lost Wages Assistance program under Trump’s executive action lapses once the $44 billion set aside for the program is gone, if the federal disaster relief funds fall below $25 billion, before December 27th, or if Congress replaces it through legislation.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have come to a standstill in their negotiations over what to fund and how much another coronavirus relief package should cost. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held a vote on a measure that congressional Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said was “headed nowhere” earlier this week. The proposal would have cost about $500 billion—one-quarter of the CARES Act as well as the price-point for what Schumer and Pelosi have been pushing for.

Sure enough, Thursday afternoon, Senate Democrats blocked the slimmed-down relief bill. POLITICO reports: “Fifty-two out of the 53-member GOP caucus voted in favor of moving forward on the proposal, a win for Senate Republican leadership after weeks of internal division. But 60 votes were needed for the bill to advance, and no Senate Democrats voted for the measure, dismissing it as a political stunt.”



Passenger wearing a face mask collects his luggage at LaGuardia Airport, in New York.
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Passenger wearing a face mask collects his luggage at LaGuardia Airport, in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

U.S. Will Stop Doing Enhanced Airport Health Screenings For International Travelers

International travelers flying from high coronavirus-risk countries into the United States will soon no longer be diverted to select airports for temperature checks and health screenings.

Instead, beginning on September 14th, U.S. officials will instead shift their approach, by providing education about the virus, relying on voluntary collection of contact information, performing country-specific risk assessments, and recommendations for self-monitoring, along with “potential testing,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The change in strategy was first reported on Wednesday by Yahoo News, which cited an unnamed government official who said the Transportation Security Administration had been briefed on the matter.

The CDC confirmed the new policy in a statement. “Transmission of the virus may occur from passengers who have no symptoms or who have not yet developed symptoms of infection,” the agency said. “Therefore, CDC is shifting its strategy and prioritizing other public health measures to reduce the risk of travel-related disease transmission.”

Beginning in March, the U.S. ordered incoming international flights from China, Iran and and much of Europe, along with some other regions, to go through 15 designated airports, including John F. Kennedy Airport, for “enhanced health screenings.” In addition to having their temperatures taken, the international passengers must also answer basic health questions designed to detect COVID-19 symptoms.

The screenings initially were blamed for creating long lines and crowded conditions at certain international airports.

CNN reported an unnamed TSA official as saying that one of the reasons for ending airport screenings was that the system had succeeded in identifying relatively few passengers with COVID-19.

“Of the 675,000 passengers screened at 15 airports, fewer than 15 had been identified as having COVID-19,” the report said.

Still, some experts have criticized the U.S. for not having sufficient and consistent screenings for incoming travelers. Some passengers coming from high-risk countries have said they faced little-to-no screening.

In contrast, travelers arriving in China, Hong Kong, and South Korea must download tracking apps to monitor their activity and health status. Screenings in some European countries have also been described as more strict than those in the U.S.

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