WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (AP) – Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet should expire at midnight on Saturday unless President Donald Trump signs a year-end COVID relief and spending bill who was deemed to have been dealt with before his sudden objections.
Trump’s refusal to sign the bipartisan package as he calls for major COVID relief controls and complains about “pork” spending, could also force the federal government to shut down if the money runs out at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday amid a pandemic.
“It’s a game of chess and we’re farmers,” said Lanetris Haines, a self-employed single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, who will lose her $ 129 weekly unemployment benefit unless Trump signs the package or it creates in its improbability search for change.
Washington has been hesitating since Trump tossed the package in abeyance, after it received full approval in both Houses of Congress, and after the White House assured Republican leaders that Trump would back it.
Instead, he attacked the bill’s plan to give most Americans $ 600 COVID relief checks – and insisted it should be $ 2,000. The Republicans of the House were quick to reject this idea during a rare Christmas Eve meeting. But Trump was not influenced.
“I just want to bring in our great people $ 2,000 instead of the paltry $ 600 that is now on the bill,” Trump tweeted Saturday from Palm Beach, Florida, where he is spending the vacation. “Stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork’ too.”
President-elect Joe Biden called on Trump to sign the bill immediately as two federal unemployment benefits programs were due to expire on Saturday.
“It’s a day after Christmas and millions of families don’t know if they can make ends meet because President Donald Trump refuses to sign an overwhelming, bipartisan Congress-approved economic relief bill,” Biden said in a statement. He accused Trump of a “waiver of responsibility” which had “devastating consequences”.
“I’ve spoken to people who are scared of being evicted from their homes over the Christmas break, and it could still be if we don’t sign that bill,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat.
Lauren Bauer, an economics scholar at the Brookings Institution, has calculated that 11 million people would immediately lose aid from programs without additional relief. Millions more would deplete other unemployment benefits within weeks.
Andrew Stettner, unemployment insurance expert and senior fellow in the Century Foundation think tank, said the number could be closer to 14 million as unemployment has risen since Thanksgiving.
“All of these people and their families will suffer if Trump doesn’t sign the damn bill,” tweeted Heidi Shierholz, director of politics at the Liberal Economic Policy Institute, on Wednesday.
How and when people are affected by the expiration depends on the state they live in, the program they are relying on, and when they applied for benefits. In some states, people with regular unemployment insurance could continue to receive payments under a program that expands benefits when the unemployment rate exceeds a certain threshold, Stettner said.
However, approximately 9.5 million people are relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which will expire on Saturday in total. This program provided unemployment insurance to freelancers, gig workers, and others who are normally ineligible. After receiving their last checks, these recipients can no longer apply for further help after Saturday, said Stettner.
While payments could come in retrospectively, any loophole means more hardship and uncertainty for Americans already grappling with bureaucratic delays and often using up much of their savings staying afloat while waiting for payments to occur.
They’re people like Earl McCarthy, a father of four who lives in South Fulton, Georgia and has been in need of unemployment since he lost his job as a salesman for a luxury senior citizen community. He said he would be out of income by the second week of January if Trump doesn’t sign the bill.
McCarthy said he had already used up much of his savings while waiting five months to receive his unemployment benefit. After leaving weekly messages at the Employment Agency, McCarthy turned to the South Fulton Mayor’s office and then to his legislative representative for help. In November he finally got payments.
“The entire experience was horrific,” said McCarthy, who receives about $ 350 per week in unemployment insurance.
“I shudder to think if I hadn’t saved anything or had an emergency fund in these five months, where would we have been?” he said. “It will be difficult if the president doesn’t sign this bill.”
The bill, awaiting Trump’s signature, would also enable a weekly unemployment benefit surcharge of $ 300.
Sharon Shelton Corpening had hoped the extra help would enable her 83-year-old mother, who she lives with, to stop using her Social Security contributions in order to earn her $ 1,138 rent.
Corpening, who lives in the Atlanta area, had started a freelance content strategy business that kicked off right before the pandemic broke out and that resulted in the failure of several of their contracts. She’s paid about $ 125 a week on the Pandemic Unemployment Program and says she won’t be able to pay her bills in about a month. This despite her temporary work for the US census and as an election worker.
“We’re on the edge,” said Corpening, who campaigns for the unemployment campaign, a project launched by the Center for People’s Democracy to fight for aid. “Another month if that is the case. Then I run out of everything. “
Trump, meanwhile, has spent his final days in the office playing golf and angrily tweeted when he refused to accept his loss to Biden in the November 3rd election. On Saturday he again beat members of his own party for failing to join his search to try to reverse election results on unsubstantiated allegations of mass voter fraud that have been repeatedly denied by the courts.
“If a Democratic presidential candidate had an election rigged and stolen, with evidence of such acts at unprecedented levels, Democratic senators would consider it an act of war and fight to the death,” he grumbled. He said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans “just want to let it happen. NO FIGHT! “
Trump also hit the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice and the FBI when he appeared to be encouraging his supporters to rally in Washington on January 6, the day Congress finalizes the election of the electoral college – albeit a similar event Violent in last month Several people are stabbed to death in the streets of the capital.
In addition to freezing unemployment benefits, Trump’s lack of action on the bill would expire eviction protection and put a new round of subsidies on hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters, as well as money to support schools and vaccine distribution.
The relief is also related to a $ 1.4 trillion state finance bill to keep the federal government running.
Olson reported from New York.