Trump signs coronavirus relief and government funding law after long delay

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The estimated 12 million people in two key pandemic unemployment programs, who were facing their last payment this weekend, will now receive benefits for an additional 11 weeks. Plus, anyone collecting unemployment benefits will receive a weekly federal boost of $ 300 through mid-March.

However, since Trump did not sign the bill on Saturday, people participating in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Emergency Pandemic Unemployment Compensation programs are unlikely to receive payment for the. last week of the year. And the $ 300 federal improvement may last as little as 10 weeks instead of 11 weeks for most people. That’s because states can’t provide benefits for the weeks that begin before the programs are authorized, but the law requires additional payments to end on March 14.

Additionally, because Congress waited until the end of December to strike a deal, people on both pandemic unemployment programs are likely to experience several weeks’ disruption in payments while state agencies reprogram their computers. But the benefits are retroactive.

Covid-19 relief legislation was passed by Congress on Monday and was airlifted to Mar-a-Lago on Thursday to await Trump’s signature. But after sitting on the sidelines during negotiations, Trump came out with a last-minute complaint that a separate provision of the deal, which the president’s White House helped negotiate, would only provide until $ 600 in direct payments. Trump wanted to send checks for $ 2,000. Trump was also outraged at certain items that actually came from the omnibus spending program and that he had requested in his annual budget from Congress.

Trump said in a statement Sunday night that he only signed the coronavirus relief bill after securing a Senate commitment to consider legislation to increase stimulus checks from $ 600 to 2,000. $. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, did not refer to the pledge in his own statement on Sunday evening, praising the president for signing the relief bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized on Trump’s call for $ 2,000 checks last week and introduced a stand-alone bill that would have increased the amount of relief checks on Thursday. House Republicans, however, opposed the bill due to deficit concerns.

The Democratic-led House is expected to vote on extending direct payments on Monday.

Calling the president’s signing of the relief bill “good news” for Americans whose benefits have expired, Pelosi said in a statement on Sunday that Trump should “immediately call on” the Republicans “to end their obstruction. and join him and the Democrats in supporting our position – only legislation to increase direct payment checks to $ 2,000. ”

Trump also claimed that the Senate would consider legislation that “repeals Section 230 and opens an investigation into electoral fraud,” although it is not clear what the legislation would be. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the November elections.

Last week, Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act – which passed both houses of Congress with a veto-proof majority – in part because of his frustration with Section 230, a law which protects internet companies from any liability for what is posted on their websites by them or third parties. The House is expected to act on Monday to override Trump’s veto. But House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that many Republicans would not vote to overturn Trump’s veto, despite having voted for the bill itself, so he is not. clear whether the attempted waiver will be successful or whether the veto will be maintained.

Trump also said in his statement on Sunday that he would submit a request to Congress to cut specific spending in the government’s Covid relief and funding program, a nod to his litany of complaints about foreign aid. . But this request, beyond freezing new spending on specified items for a period of 45 days, will have no significant effect. Trump will be removed from office before Congress can act on any of his demands.

Unemployment benefits and eviction protections extended

Trump chooses chaos with delayed signing of Covid relief bill

The relief plan expands two programs that were part of the historic expansion of the country’s unemployment system that Congress enacted as part of the $ 2,000 billion CARES law in late March.

The Unemployment Pandemic Assistance Program has enabled independent contractors, freelancers, freelancers and concert workers to receive up to 39 weeks of payments. He also opened the program to those who cannot work due to the pandemic, including if they or their family members are sick or in quarantine or if their children’s schools are closed.

And the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program provided an additional 13 weeks of federally-paid benefits to those who were no longer in state payments, which typically last 26 weeks. The programs would technically have expired on December 31.

The third measure of the CARES Act – an additional $ 600 per week in federal payments – expired in late July.

The new stimulus deal extends the two pandemic programs for up to 11 weeks. Each closes to new applicants on March 14, but continues until April 5 for existing applicants who have not yet reached the maximum number of weeks.

The relief program is also extending eviction protection until January 31 and providing $ 25 billion in rent assistance to those who lost their sources of income during the pandemic.

An order from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopping some evictions was due to expire at the end of the year. Since the order does not cancel or freeze rent, all of a tenant’s rent arrears would have been due on January 1 had the moratorium been allowed to expire. Without rent relief or extended protection, many tenants in difficulty would again be threatened with eviction.

An estimated 9.2 million tenants who lost employment income during the pandemic are behind on rent, or 23% of those tenants, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

A long delay

Trump signed the bill almost a week after calling it “disgrace” and asking Congress to change the law. Trump’s complaints only came after Congress passed the bill with a veto-proof majority and after the president stood on the sidelines for weeks of negotiations.

Aides had prepared for the president to sign the bill as early as Christmas Eve, when he arrived in Mar-a-Lago for his signature. But the plan was scrapped at the last minute, two sources with knowledge of the circumstances told CNN.

In anticipation of the signing, the smaller of Mar-a-Lago’s two ballrooms was prepped for a ceremony at 7 p.m., with a desk and chair for Trump to sit on, and his usual pens within reach. of hand, according to the source.

However, as the time approached, aides were told that the president would not sign the relief bill that evening. A source told CNN that Trump had “changed his mind.”

The country, Congress, and many of Trump’s closest aides and advisers had remained in the dark as to what he intended to do. He had offered no clarity since the video opposing the bill was released on Tuesday night.

When a deal was made between congressional leaders, Trump’s aides signed off, believing the president to be on board, although two officials previously told CNN they didn’t think he had gone through the package. in detail.

In fact, throughout his video message asking Congress to change it, Trump has spoken out against several provisions that were part of the omnibus spending bill, not the Covid relief bill.

“It’s called the Covid Relief Bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid,” the president said at one point.

While the omnibus spending bill – which allocates money to all federal agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year – has been combined with the stimulus deal, the funds allocated to the omnibus bill do not mean that less is available for the Covid Relief Bill.

Yet the president had publicly maintained his opposition to the legislation – leaving small business support, unemployment benefits and relief checks for millions of Americans in limbo.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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