President Donald Trump didn’t look any closer to signing a year-end COVID relief and expense bill Sunday like unemployment assistance expired, the government is heading towards a mid-pandemic shutdown, and lawmakers have pleaded with it to break the deadlock it created after Congress approved the deal.
The fate of the bipartisan package remained in limbo after Trump blinded members of both parties with a demand for COVID relief checks and complained about the “pork” spending, even as aid to millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet stopped overnight. The federal government will be cash-strapped at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday if Trump refuses to sign the bill while he is on vacation in Florida.
In the face of economic hardship and the spread of the disease, several lawmakers urged Trump to sign the legislation immediately and then ask Congress to follow up with more relief.
“What the president is doing right now is incredibly cruel,” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said on Sunday. “So many people are suffering.”
Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania also said Trump should sign the bill and then advocate for more. “We currently have a bill that his administration helped negotiate,” he said. “I think we have to get there.”
This point was echoed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who criticized Trump’s pandemic response and his efforts to overturn election results. “I just gave up on guessing what he might do next,” he says. Hogan and Sanders spoke on ABC This week, Toomey on Fox News Sunday.
In South Bend, Indiana, Lanetris Haines, an independent single mother of three, stood at risk of losing her $ 129 weekly unemployment benefit unless Trump signs the package into law or succeeds in his unlikely quest for change.
“It’s a game of chess and we are pawns,” she said.
Trump was spending Sunday golfing at his West Palm Beach course.
He has given no indication of his intention to sign the bill as he spends the last days of his presidency in a rage. Indeed, his dissatisfaction with the legislation only seems to have increased in recent days as he criticized it both privately to club members and in public on Twitter.
“I just want to make our great people $ 2,000, rather than the meager $ 600 that is now in the bill,” he said. tweeted Saturday. “Also, stop the billions of dollars of ‘pig’.”
Washington has been in shock since Trump made the deal, without warning, after gaining blanket approval from both houses of Congress and after the White House assured Republican leaders that Trump would back him.
Instead, he attacked the bill to provide $ 600 COVID relief checks to most Americans – insisting it should be $ 2,000. House Republicans were quick to dismiss the idea in a rare Christmas Eve session. But Trump was not swayed despite the nation being in the grip of a pandemic.
As the standoff continued, Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health warned the country was at a “tipping point” in COVID-19 infections, with the Christmas and New Years holidays threatening a “surge wave” “As people gather with families and others, against the advice of public health officials.
“As we move into the next few weeks, it could actually get worse,” he told CNN. State of the Union.
President elect Joe biden called on Trump to sign the bill immediately as the midnight Saturday deadline approaches for two federal unemployment assistance programs. He accused Trump of an “abdication of responsibility” which has “devastating consequences”.
The impact is already starting. Lauren Bauer, an economics fellow at the Brookings Institution, calculated that 11 million people would immediately lose help from the programs without additional help; millions more would exhaust other unemployment benefits in a matter of weeks.
Andrew Stettner, unemployment insurance expert and senior researcher at Century Foundation think tank, said the number could be closer to 14 million as unemployment has soared since Thanksgiving.
How and when people would be affected by forfeiture depended on the state they lived in, the program they relied on, and when they applied for benefits. In some states, people with regular unemployment insurance would continue to receive payments under a program that extends benefits when the unemployment rate exceeds a certain threshold, Stettner said.
However, around 9.5 million people were relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program which expired on Saturday. This program made unemployment insurance available to freelancers, on-demand workers and others who were not normally eligible. After receiving their last checks, those recipients couldn’t ask for more help, Stettner said.
While payments can be received retroactively, any discrepancy would mean more hardship and uncertainty for Americans who were already struggling with bureaucratic delays, often draining a large chunk of their savings to stay afloat while waiting for payments to come in. .
They were people like Earl McCarthy, a father of four who lives in South Fulton, Georgia, and has been counting on unemployment since he lost his job as a sales representative for a luxury seniors community. He said he would be left with no income by the second week of January if Trump refused to sign the bill.
McCarthy said he had already burned a large chunk of his savings by waiting five months to start receiving about $ 350 a week in unemployment benefits.
“The whole experience has been horrible,” McCarthy said. “I shudder to think that if I hadn’t saved anything or had an emergency fund during those five months, where would we be?”
He added: “It will be difficult if the president does not sign this bill.”
The bill would also activate a weekly federal supplement of $ 300 to unemployment compensation. In addition to unemployment benefits that have already expired, Trump’s continued refusal to sign the bill would cause eviction protections to expire and suspend a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters. , as well as money for cashless transit systems and for vaccine distribution.
Sharon Shelton Corpening was hoping the extra help would allow her 83-year-old mother, who she lives with, to stop eating her Social Security payments to pay their rent of $ 1,138.
Corpening, who lives in the Atlanta area, had started an independent content strategy company that had just taken off before the pandemic hit, causing several of its contracts to fail. She was receiving around $ 125 per week as part of the Pandemic Unemployment Program and says she would be unable to pay her bills in about a month. This, despite her temporary job for the US Census and as an election clerk.
“On the brink,” Corpening, who lobbies for Action Against Unemployment, a project launched by the Center for People’s Democracy to fight for relief, said of his plight. “Another month, if that. Then I run out of everything.
The relief was also attached to a $ 1.4 trillion government funding bill to keep the federal government in office until September, which would mean not signing it by Tuesday would trigger a federal shutdown.
Olson reported from New York.
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