WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet expired overnight as President Donald Trump refused to sign a spending bill and the year-end COVID relief that had been seen as a deal made before its sudden objections.
The fate of the bipartisan package remained in limbo on Sunday as Trump continued to demand larger COVID relief checks and complained about “pig” spending. Without the widespread funding provided by this massive measure, a government shutdown would occur when the money runs out at midnight 01 Tuesday.
“It’s a game of chess and we are pawns,” said Lanetris Haines, an independent single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, who was at risk of losing her $ 129 weekly unemployment benefit unless Trump does not sign the package into law or succeed in its unlikely quest for change.
Washington has been in shock since Trump made the deal 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.
“I just want to make $ 2,000 for our great people, rather than the meager $ 600 that is now in the bill,” Trump tweeted Saturday from Palm Beach, Fla., Where he is vacationing. “Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pig.'”
President-elect Joe Biden called on Trump to sign the bill immediately as Saturday’s midnight deadline approaches for two federal unemployment assistance programs.
“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 “Biden said in a statement. He accused Trump of an “abdication of responsibility” which has “devastating consequences”.
“I have spoken to people who are afraid of being evicted from their homes, over the Christmas holidays, and it could still be if we don’t sign this bill,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan.
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.
“All of these people and their families will suffer if Trump does not sign this damn bill,” Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Liberal Institute of Economic Policy, tweeted Wednesday.
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, who 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 at the thought 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, which was in Florida pending Trump’s signature, would also activate a weekly federal unemployment benefit supplement of $ 300.
Sharon Shelton Corpening hoped the extra help would stop her 83-year-old mother, who she lives with, from eating away at 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.
“We are on the brink,” said Corpening, who is pushing for action against unemployment, a project launched by the Center for People’s Democracy to fight for relief. “Another month, if that. Then I run out of everything.
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.
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 failing to sign it before midnight Tuesday would trigger a federal shutdown.
Olson reported from New York.