Gov. Greg Abbott said the federal government approved a $1.4 billion grant to give Texans an added $300 per week in their unemployment benefits.
“I thank the Trump administration for swiftly granting these funds to help Texans who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Abbott said in a statement. “These funds will help Texans in need support their families as we work to revitalize the economy and get Texans back to work.”
The Texas Workforce Commission applied for the program earlier in the week. It received only a fraction of the $7.2 billion the state originally requested.
The funding comes from a controversial program started by President Donald Trump that takes money allocated to the Department of Homeland Security for disaster relief and diverts it for economic relief. Trump started the program after Congress could not reach a deal in July to extend the $600 per week it was providing unemployed Americans.
Critics have said Trump is usurping Congress’ constitutional power to allocate federal funding.
Abbott did not address that in his release. He said Thursday that Texans should expect to receive the $300 boosts in their next paycheck after Aug. 23.
The Lost Wages Assistance program allows for a potential relief of $400 if states pitch in $100. Texas has chosen not to do so.
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who leads the House Business and Industry Committee that oversees the workforce commission, said Abbott should use some of the $8 billion in unused federal funds from Congress’ coronavirus relief package to provide the $100 matches.
Martinez Fischer said commission officials told him $3 to $4 billion would fund that match for 22 weeks.
It is unclear, however, how long the $1.4 billion grant from the federal government will last for unemployed Texans. Critics have said the program only has enough funds to last a few weeks.
More than 4.5 million have applied for unemployment in the state since the pandemic reached the state in March. In the last 10 days, 1.7 million Texans have received unemployment benefits.
Cisco Gamez, a spokesman for the commission, said the agency would administer the money until the funds run out, until the program expires, or until new legislation is passed. He said the commission has no timeline.
About 347,000 of the state’s current unemployment recipients do not qualify for the extra $300 per week.
Only Texans who are receiving more than $100 in unemployment benefits qualify for the program. Unemployed Texans do not have to apply for the program. The additional $300 per week will be added automatically in their next benefits payment.
Recipients must also have certified that they lost their jobs because of COVID-19. If unemployment recipients did not check that in their initial application, they will be prompted to do so during their next benefits payment period.