The last several months of coronavirus stimulus package negotiations finally reached their conclusion Sunday night after President Trump signed the long-awaited deal into law. The $2.3 trillion bill will help avoid a partial government shutdown that would have otherwise started Tuesday and provide a financial lifeline to millions of Americans.
Lawmakers allocated $900 billion for various COVID-19 relief measures, including the extension of two critical unemployment benefits programs, stimulus checks, and more.
The nearly 12 million jobless workers enrolled in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs will get 11 more weeks of unemployment insurance and an additional $300 weekly bonus from the federal government until mid-March.
Because the president did not approve the measure on Saturday, PUA and PEUC recipients will not receive benefits for the last week of December. Additionally, many will only receive supplemental unemployment payments for ten weeks, rather than the full 11. States can’t offer benefits for weeks that begin before the programs are sanctioned, though the bill stipulates that the federal benefits lapse on March 14.
And because lawmakers failed to compromise until the final hour, PUA and PEUC recipients will probably see a disruption in benefits for several weeks as state unemployment offices reconfigure their systems. However, payments will be backdated.
Once lawmakers approved the coronavirus relief bill on Monday, it was delivered to Mar-a-Lago via plane on Thursday for the president to sign. However, after taking a backseat throughout talks, the president raised a last-minute dispute over the $600 stimulus checks — a measure that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin helped arbitrate on President Trump’s behalf.
In addition to calling for $2,000 direct payments, the president also criticized other provisions included in the comprehensive spending bill — including ones he had pushed lawmakers to add.
In a Sunday evening statement, President Trump remarked that he approved the COVID-19 stimulus packages once the Senate pledged to at least think about raising direct payments from $600 to $2,000. But in a separate statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who applauded the president for approving the measure that night, he did not bring up the guarantee.
Last Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi jumped on the president’s demand for $2,000 payments, bringing a standalone measure that would have increased the benefits amounts to the floor for House members to vote on. The bill failed to gain traction, with Republican representatives citing that they did not want to worsen the federal deficit.
The House is expected to vote on boosting the stimulus checks on Monday.
In a Sunday statement concerning the stimulus deal, Pelosi referred to President Trump’s approval as “welcome news” for the millions who lost government assistance. She added that the president should “immediately call on” his fellow Republicans “to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our standalone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000.”
The president also asserted that the Senate would potentially vote on a bill that “repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud,” although it remains uncertain what that bill would look like. Evidence of sweeping voter fraud during the presidential election has yet to be discovered.
Last week, President Trump rejected the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House and Senate approved with veto-proof majorities, partially in retaliation over Section 230, a provision that protects internet companies from accountability for third-party content shared on their sites.
The House will most likely overrule the president’s veto on Monday. However, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has insinuated that most of the GOP won’t go against President Trump, even though they initially voted for the legislation. As a result, it remains uncertain if the House will be able to override the veto.
In the same Sunday statement, President Trump also noted that he would seek to limit certain spending items in the dual government funding/COVID-19 stimulus package, which aligns with his history of criticism about foreign aid. It’s unlikely that this request will have no real consequence other than halting new spending on the specified items for the 450-day window. The president will leave office before lawmakers can make a move on any of the demands.
- Liptak, Kevin, et al. “Trump Signs Coronavirus Relief and Government Funding Bill into Law after Lengthy Delay.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Dec. 2020, edition.cnn.com/2020/12/27/politics/trump-relief-bill-christmas-eve/index.html.