Millions of Americans go without unemployment benefits after President Donald trump stood firm in opposition to a bipartisan congressional stimulus package approved just before Christmas.
The benefits expired on Saturday night, hours after Mr. Trump reiterated his criticism of the deal, which was negotiated by his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Congressional leaders from both sides. He is now awaiting the president’s signature at his resort town of Mar-a-Lago, Florida, where the first family spent Christmas.
Mr Trump has said he will not sign the bill unless Congress increases direct payment checks sent to Americans from $ 600 to $ 2,000 per adult.
“Increase payments to the people, get rid of the ‘pig’,” Mr. Trump tweeted in the wee hours of Sunday morning, referring to spending on “pig” or allocating public funds to local projects for pets.
Mr Trump’s refusal to sign the bill means the federal government could close its doors on Tuesday morning one minute after midnight, which would lead to the dismissal of many officials, if there is no breakthrough or if the Congress does not adopt another short-term spending measure.
President-elect Joe Biden berated Mr. Trump over the weekend, urging him to sign what he described as urgent legislation.
“It’s Boxing Day, and millions of families are unsure whether they will be able to make ends meet due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming, bipartisan majority Mr. Biden said in a statement. “This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences.”
Mr Biden said he viewed the bill as “a first step and a down payment” for the country’s economic recovery. His administration is expected to take more action “early in the new year to revive the economy and contain the pandemic – including addressing the urgent need for funding to distribute and administer the vaccine and to increase our testing capacity.”
Earlier this month, the Brookings Institution estimated that about 10 million Americans would lose their unemployment benefits once two federal unemployment programs expired on the night of December 26.
Other economists believe that number could be even higher, given the number of Americans who have lost their jobs since the Thanksgiving holiday.
One program provides benefits to workers on demand, who often do not qualify for most unemployment benefits. The other gives an additional 13 weeks of payments to workers who have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify for state and local unemployment benefits.
The nearly 5,600-page bill passed by Congress last week would allow unemployed Americans to apply for unemployment assistance for 50 weeks and provide an additional $ 300 per week in benefits to workers who have lost their jobs . It has also provided billions of dollars in funds for struggling industries, such as airlines, and to help tenants who have fallen behind on their rent payments.
Congress will return to Washington earlier this week to address the issue. As the Democratic-controlled House is on the verge of vote to increase stimulus checks from $ 600 to $ 2,000, as Democrats have long been asking, and Mr. Trump is now asking, it’s unclear how the Republican-controlled Senate will respond Mr. Trump’s demands.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who was with Mr Trump on Christmas, tweeted Friday that the president was “more determined than ever to increase stimulus payments to $ 2,000 per person,” a request he called ” reasonable”.
However, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and one of the Senate’s most vocal supporters of the $ 2,000 checks, said Mr. Trump must first sign the original legislation of Congress.
“What the president is doing right now is incredibly cruel. Several million people are losing their extended unemployment benefits, ”Sanders told ABC News on Sunday.
Mr. Sanders added, “I want $ 2,000. The American people want $ 2,000. They need it given the economic crisis. We must therefore ask the president to sign this bill today, immediately. Otherwise, the suffering of this country will be immense and then we can deal with the $ 2,000 immediately. “