Millions of Americans battling the financial hardships of the coronavirus pandemic lost their unemployment benefits Sunday when Donald Trump continued to refuse to sign an aid package agreed to in Congress and headed to the golf course.
The president’s belligerence over the bipartisan Covid relief and spending bill, which would have extended benefits and given direct cash payments to most American families, drew the ire of high-level Republicans, who accused Trump to inflict more misery on the citizens.
“I should have stepped in eight months ago,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said on CNN’s State of the Union in response to Trump’s claim that he would only sign if the aid package included $ 2,000 in direct payments instead of the $ 600 agreed upon.
“The paycheck protection plan ran out in July. Tomorrow unemployment benefits run out. So sign the bill, do it. And then if the president wants to push for more, let’s do it too. “
In a later appearance on ABC’s This Week program, Hogan claimed, “Millions of Americans are going to suffer.”
Trump, who is spending the Christmas and New Year holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, raised objections to the $ 900 billion relief bill only after it was approved by Congress last week, having been negotiated by his own Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin. .
The bill has remained unsigned on his desk since Christmas Day, as the president, who was mostly silent during weeks of intense negotiations, spent the weekend at Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach.
In a tweet criticizing the bill, Trump claimed, without clarification, that it was full of “billions of dollars in pork”.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who won the November presidential election and will be sworn in as Trump’s successor on January 20, charged him with a “abdication of responsibility“In a statement Saturday.
Democrats in the House of Representatives will try again Monday to break out of the impasse by voting to increase the amount of direct payments, a move thwarted once by House Republicans On Christmas’ Eve.
“On Monday we will hold a recorded vote on our independent bill to increase economic impact payments to $ 2,000,” said Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the Democratic House, in a statement after the first attempt failed.
“To vote against this bill is to deny the economic hardships families face and deny them the relief they need.”
In addition to denying aid to Americans who have long suffered, Trump’s refusal to sign the package also delays a $ 1.4 trillion funding bill, which could result in a US government shutdown. On Tuesday, amid a deadly pandemic that has killed more than 332,000 in the United States.
Financial experts say the burden on American families will get worse. Lauren Bauer, an economics fellow at the Brookings Institution, has estimated that 11 million people will lose aid immediately after the expiration of two unemployment programs, and millions more will exhaust other unemployment benefits within weeks.
Andrew Stettner, an unemployment insurance expert and a senior fellow at the Century Foundation think tank, said the figure may be closer to 14 million because unemployment has soared since late November.
“All these people and their families will suffer if Trump doesn’t sign the damn bill,” said Heidi Shierholz, policy director at the Institute for Liberal Economic Policy. he said in a tweet.
About 9.5 million people have relied on the pandemic unemployment assistance program that expired on Sunday. That program made unemployment insurance available to the self-employed, gig workers, and others who were not normally eligible.
Even if Trump relents, the expiration of the programs will cause delays in processing retrospective payments, adding to the financial burden for many.
Hogan, on ABC’s This Week, predicted that more Republicans were willing to take on Trump over the aid bill, knowing that the end of his administration and Biden’s inauguration were only 24 days away.
“I think there are more and more and they will,” he said. “It’s going to be very different after January 20, when you are not in a position to exert as much influence as you do now.”
Disputes over the aid bill come as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen in the US, and medical experts join Biden in predicting that the darkest days are yet to come.
“It’s very possible that we will see a post-season increase, in the sense of Christmas, New Years,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s chief of infectious diseases, told CNN Sunday.
“When it comes to a baseline of 200,000 new cases per day and around 2,000 deaths per day, with hospitalizations above 120,000, we are really at a very critical point. You see people at airports huddled in lines, trying to keep themselves physically apart, but it is very difficult to do so.
“And that generally follows, when people arrive at the destination they want to be, that they are going to have a mix of people from the house at a dinner or a social function. As much as we advise against it, it happens anyway ”.
Associated Press material was used in this report
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