President Donald Trump did not sign the latest coronavirus relief legislation by midnight on Saturday, a move expected to cost jobless workers at least one week of $300 federal unemployment benefits.
Trump had suggested he might reject the $900 billion stimulus package, which passed in both chambers of Congress earlier this week, unless it includes $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans.
The bill currently includes $600 checks for qualified Americans, along with the $300 weekly federal unemployment insurance.
“I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork,'” Trump tweeted on Saturday morning.
The president has not made clear whether he will sign the legislation. Yet, the delay puts other federal assistance programs in danger and could prove costly for Americans whose unemployment benefits were supposed to restart on December 26.
By not signing the bill before the end of day Saturday, Trump has effectively cut a week of $300 federal unemployment benefits for jobless people, according to Michele Evermore, a policy expert at the National Employment Law Project.
But Evermore cautioned that it’s hard to project without federal guidance how the holdup would affect other unemployment programs.
“I’m not entirely sure how this will be interpreted — at the very least, we lose a week of the $300,” Evermore told Insider. “No matter what, if he doesn’t sign, next week it goes down to 10 weeks of an extra $300.”
The $300 federal unemployment supplement included in the bill is scheduled to end on March 14, a date that will not change based on when the bill actually becomes law.
Depending on when the bill is signed, labor agencies could restart the payments during the first week of January. Because states cannot provide benefits for the weeks preceding the bill’s approval, the $300 supplement may only be in place for 10 weeks, rather than the intended 11.
About 14 million people are at risk of losing unemployment benefits, as Saturday was the last day that two federal unemployment programs distribute their payments. These programs are the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers and freelancers and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for people who exhausted state benefits.
In tweets on Saturday, including one sent hours before midnight, Trump again called for the relief bill to include higher stimulus checks.
Trump could still sign the package in the following days, though he has not indicated whether he will do so.