President Donald Trump is imploring Congress to up the impact payment checks for Americans from $600 to $2,000, but the demand does not come without a cost.
The unemployment boost expires Saturday night if Trump does not sign a coronavirus relief package by midnight.
“States cannot pay out benefits for weeks that begin before the bill is signed, meaning that if the president does not sign the bill [Saturday], benefits will not restart until the first week of January. But they will still end in mid-March, effectively trimming the extension to 10 weeks from 11,” The New York Times reported.
President-elect Joe Biden pounced on the expiration benefits to boost the Democrat-fed omnibus and to attack President Trump as harming the American people. Issuing a statement Saturday on his transition website:
“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority.
“This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits. In just a few days, government funding will expire, putting vital services and paychecks for military personnel at risk. In less than a week, a moratorium on evictions expires, putting millions at risk of being forced from their homes over the holidays. Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19.”
Trump has vowed to not sign the bill until the excess foreign spending is addressed and Americans get a larger impact payment than the bill’s $600. Democrats have been nearly universally supportive for $2,000 checks, but that support has come without addressing a reduction in the omnibus’ spending elsewhere.
Biden’s statement makes it clear he wants to be the president who boosts aide to Americans, permitting what Trump considers a flawed bill to set up Biden’s administration to fill in the blanks after Jan. 21.
Biden’s statement concluded:
“This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now. But it is also a first step and down payment on more action that we’ll need to take early in the new year to revive the economy and contain the pandemic — including meeting the dire need for funding to distribute and administer the vaccine and to increase our testing capacity.”
Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort to amend the hard-won pandemic relief package to more than triple direct payments to struggling Americans.
After months of partisan bickering, legislators late Monday finally approved a $900 billion stimulus package to help families and businesses struggling to survive the hit to the economy from the coronavirus before millions lose their benefits.
Democrats, who have been pushing for months to increase pandemic support, cheered his statement, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., challenged Republicans to support an amendment to boost the dollar amount.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives held a Christmas Eve “pro forma” session, normally a brief affair with little business, in an effort to win bipartisan approval to send the revised payments to Trump’s desk for signature.
But Republicans refused to agree to the change.
“So we do not have unanimous consent,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who was acting as speaker pro tempore.
Pelosi immediately lambasted Republicans and vowed to call the House back Monday to approve the amendment in a regular session.
“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support. If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction,” she said in a statement.
Later Thursday, Pelosi said the bill has been sent to the White House and called on Trump to sign.
“The House & Senate are now sending this important legislation #ForThePeople to the White House for the President’s signature. We urge him to sign this bill into law to give immediate relief to hard-working families!,” Pelosi tweeted.
The stakes are high, especially if Trump vetoes the bill: About 14 million jobless workers will lose their pandemic unemployment benefits right after Christmas, and millions more face losing their homes when an eviction moratorium expires at the end of the year.
And the stimulus measure is wrapped up with a $1.4 trillion funding bill, meaning the government will be forced to shut down at midnight Monday if Trump does not sign the bill.
Information from Agence France-Presse was used in this report.