The North Dakota unemployment insurance trust fund, facing solvency issues, got an infusion of cash and is part of a larger push to fund the state’s coronavirus response and recovery efforts.
The North Dakota Emergency Commission approved the use of $524.2 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, on May 12, of which $110 million will be used for the unemployment trust. North Dakota’s share of the relief funds came in at $1.25 billion and was part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Despite the new funding, state unemployment officials don’t think it will be enough.
“Projections indicate that we will need to make further requests for funds over the next few months,” wrote Darren Brostrom, the state’s director of unemployment insurance, to the Herald in a Friday email.
Brostrom said the state is spending $15 million to $20 million per week in benefits. In Grand Forks County, the amount of benefits paid for the week ending May 9 is nearly $1 million.
The current balance of the trust fund is $121.8 million, which does not include the recently added $110 million. The trust had $225,975,141 in its coffers in January, before the pandemic shuttered businesses across the state.
About $95.5 million have been paid out since March 16, in state unemployment benefits alone. That number jumps to $238.9 million when federal supplements to unemployment insurance are included. Those supplements were created by the CARES Act and include Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for self-employed or “gig” workers, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides an extra $600 per week in benefits, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extend benefits for 13 weeks for those who have exhausted regular state benefits.
In addition to the unemployment trust, the emergency commission approved a bevy of other funding requests from 10 state agencies, including:
-- $253.7 million in economic support for businesses, the bulk of which goes to two low-interest Bank of North Dakota loan programs.
-- $89.7 million for public health and safety, including lab supplies, protective equipment and overtime.
-- $68.3 million for telework, cyber security and to transition to digital services.
The six-member North Dakota Emergency Commission is chaired by Gov. Doug Burgum and includes Secretary of State Al Jaeger, House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer and Senate Appropriations Chairman Ray Holmberg.