By Ivan Pentchoukov
Millions of people lost federal unemployment benefits on Saturday as Congress failed to meet President Donald Trump’s demand for $2,000 stimulus checks to be added to the pandemic relief bill passed by both chambers last week.
According to an estimate by The Century Foundation (TCF), 12 million people lost unemployment benefits when two programs funded through the initial pandemic relief measure pass by Congress expired on Dec. 26.
Of the total, 7.3 million lost benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provided taxpayer-funded unemployment checks to gig workers and others not eligible for regular benefits, the foundation estimated.
An additional 4.6 million lost benefits upon the termination of the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which funded the benefits of people on long-term unemployment with federal taxpayer dollars, according to the estimate.
Of the estimated 4.6 million who lost PEUC benefits, 2.9 million can still apply for Extended Benefits (EB), a federal program authorized in 1970 that provides between six and 20 weeks of benefits. The benefits vary depending on individual states’ unemployment rates and laws.
By the end of the year, a total of 16 million people will have lost benefits due to the standoff over the relief package to address the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus pandemic, commonly knows as the novel coronavirus, according to the TCF.
Workers who lose their jobs are initially eligible for state unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, depending on the state. Once state benefits are exhausted, the beneficiaries can apply for and receive PEUC benefits for 13 weeks and EB benefits for 13 to 20 weeks. In some states with short durations of benefits, like Florida, those who exhaust EB benefits can receive unemployment checks through PUA for 39 to 46 weeks.
Gig workers and others ineligible for traditional unemployment can only receive PUA benefits and cannot apply for other programs once the benefits are exhausted.
The president surprised Congress on Dec. 22 with a video announcement deriding the $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill for its “wasteful” provisions for foreign governments and demanded more money for American taxpayers.
Trump didn’t use the word “veto,” but all but implied he would block the bill unless Congress removed billions in spending allocated to foreign nations and domestic institutions. He called for $2,000 payments for individual taxpayers, up from the $600 approved in the bill passed by the House and the Senate.
Top Democrats backed Trump’s demand for $2,000 checks but ignored his demands to cast other spending items from the bill, such as $10 million for gender programs in Pakistan. The bill failed to pass with unanimous consent after lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voiced grievances.
Trump could outright veto the bill or let it expire due to Congress since Congress has to adjourn on Jan. 3, which would result in what is called a pocket veto. He could also ultimately sign the bill despite his criticism of it or approve a revised version of the bill if Congress approves one.
In addition to the CCP virus relief, the omnibus spending bill would fund the government through September next year. The deadline to extend the funding is on Tuesday, Dec. 29.
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