Millions of Americans have been left in limbo after unemployment benefits expired with President Donald Trump refusing to sign a bipartisan COVID relief bill and continues to demand the next round of checks be increased from $600 to $2000.
Just hours before the midnight deadline was due to pass, Trump once again blamed China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected, for people needing the long-awaited stimulus package.
“$2000 + $2000 plus other family members. Not $600. Remember, it was China’s fault!,” Trump tweeted on December 26, after making a similar claim in a post on Christmas Day.
The $900 billion relief package which had been agreed by both sides in Congress last week following months of deadlocked negotiations look set to be signed off until Trump unexpectedly declared it a “disgrace” while calling for an increase in payments.
In a rare Christmas Eve session, House Republicans voted down proposals to increase the next round of payments to $2000, with Democrats also blocking Republican attempts to cut foreign aid from the $1.4 trillion federal spending bill.
An estimated 12 million Americans are now set to lose jobless benefits, including those relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which made unemployment insurance available to self-employed, freelancers, gig workers and others who do not normally qualify.
A federal shutdown will also be triggered if the $1.4 trillion government funding bill, which the coronavirus relief packages are attached to, is also not signed by midnight Tuesday.
Millions are also facing having their eviction protections, which the stimulus bill would extend, expire at the end of 2020.
“I’ve been talking to people who are scared they’re going to be kicked out from their homes, during the Christmas holidays, and still might be if we don’t sign this bill,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, told the Associated Press.
In a statement, President-elect Joe Biden urged that the bill signed as the moratorium on evictions expires in less than a week.
“Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19,” Biden said.
“This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now. But it is also a first step and down payment on more action that we’ll need to take early in the new year to revive the economy and contain the pandemicâ€”including meeting the dire need for funding to distribute and administer the vaccine and to increase our testing capacity.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously confirmed that a new vote on increasing the stimulus payments to $2,000 will take place on Monday. A stopgap bill also could be passed to prevent a partial government shutdown from taking place.