4963931Nearly half of the states in the nation are missing out on more than $3.1 billion in stimulus funds available to assist the unemployed because they have not met the requirements necessary to qualify for the federal aid, USA Today reports.
Labor Department records indicate that 23 states have failed to meet federal requirements for the extra money, the newspaper reports. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates nearly 350,000 unemployed Americans could be benefiting from that money.
The Obama administration has dictated, USA Today reports, that states may receive a third of the unemployment funds they are eligible for after relaxing rules about for how long a person must be unemployed in order to get benefits. The rest of the money becomes available after a state provides extra money for workers' dependents, part-time workers, people in training programs or for those who quit their jobs because of "compelling family circumstances."
Unemployment claims fell nationwide last week, providing evidence that fewer jobs are being slashed from the economy. In July, the unemployment rate dipped to 9.4 percent, its first decline in 15 months. Still, some economists predict unemployment may not return to healthy levels until 2013.
Republican leaders in 11 of the 23 ineligible states have declined to change their unemployment rules in exchange for the money, according to USA Today.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one such Republican who refused the federal stimulus funds on the grounds that there were too many strings attached. Perry said he was not accepting the money because the state would have been obligated to expand its unemployment coverage, creating too much of a long term tax burden. Yet now that the state's unemployment funds are depleting faster than expected, the governor is asking for a $170 million loan from the federal government to cover the very expenses the rejected stimulus money would have paid for.