A lifeline for many Americans struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic has run out as President Donald Trump initially refused to sign a COVID relief deal.
Unemployment benefits expired at midnight on Dec. 27 for 12 million jobless Americans following the expiration of two federal programs providing funding for such benefits. A COVID-19 relief and government spending bill has been ready to step in and assist, but Trump initially refused to sign the Democratic and Republican-backed bill, demanding changes.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer estimates that the unemployment lapse would affect nearly 700,000 Michigan residents who are dependent upon unemployment benefits amid the pandemic.
“We have hundreds of thousands of people in my state who are risk of losing their benefits,” Whitmer said on CNN Sunday morning.
“Sign the bill. Get some relief to people,” Whitmer added, addressing Trump’s initial refusal to sign the $900 billion COVID relief bill that has been passed by Congress.
Trump turned on the deal, without warning, after it had won sweeping approval in both houses of Congress and after the White House had assured Republican leaders that Trump would support it. At the last minute, the president urged lawmakers to send $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans instead of the bill’s proposed $600. Democratic lawmakers had already attempted to raise the aid checks to $2,000, but it was not approved by the Republican-controlled Senate.
“The president needs to sign it, and if he really believes we should get up to $2,000 — which I have believed for a long time — he should get back to Washington D.C. and get that piece done as well,” Whitmer said of Trump on CNN.
Whitmer’s comments come as Trump is being criticized for golfing in Florida as the nation’s response to the pandemic hangs in the balance.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, joined Whitmer on CNN in insisting the president sign the bill for the sake of everyone at risk.
On Sunday evening, President Trump hinted that the relief bill may be moving forward in a tweet — though it was unclear if he meant that he planned to sign the bill, changes have been made to the bill or, possibly, neither.
Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 27, 2020
“Good news on Covid Relief Bill,” Trump tweeted. “Information to follow!”
Later that same evening, Trump reportedly signed the massive COVID aid package, effectively avoiding a government shutdown.
President Donald Trump has signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals. It also averts a government shutdown.
Trump announced the signing in a statement Sunday night.
The massive bill includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems and an increase in food stamp benefits.
Democrats are promising more aid to come once President-elect Joe Biden takes office, but Republicans are signaling a wait-and-see approach.