July 31 marked the end of the CARES Act’s $600 federal weekly unemployment benefit — and there’s no replacement or extension yet in place. President Donald Trump signed an executive action Saturday to extend the additional extra weekly funds at a reduced amount of $400.
“I’m taking action to provide an additional, or an extra, $400 per week in expanded benefits,” Trump said during a press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “States will be asked to cover 25% of costs using existing funding such as the tens of billions of dollars available to them through the coronavirus relief fund. Under this plan, states will be able to offer greater benefits if they so choose and the federal government will cover 75% of the costs.”
According to the executive order, the $400 amount would start for the week ending on Aug. 1 and will last until Dec. 27. However, there is no indication yet on when these extra funds will show up in unemployment checks.
Along with the return of the enhanced unemployment benefit, Trump also signed three other executive actions, for a payroll tax holiday, federal student loan assistance, and eviction protection. So far there’s no date set on when these executive actions will go into effect or if they’ll be challenged by Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement Saturday evening in response to Trump’s executive actions and called on Republicans to return to the negotiating table.
“Today’s meager announcements by the president show President Trump still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families,” the two legislators said. “For instance, not only does the president’s announcement not actually extend the eviction moratorium, it provides no assistance to help pay the rent, which will only leave desperate families to watch their debt pile higher. Instead of passing a bill, now President Trump is cutting families’ unemployment benefits and pushing states further into budget crises, forcing them to make devastating cuts to life-or-death services.”
The weekly $600 benefit, part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, was a popular feature of the initial coronavirus relief legislation package that extended federal unemployment aid to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the HEALS Act (which stands for Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools) officially proposed, Democrats and Republicans are working through a political stalemate.
On July 29, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the president spoke with reporters about the current status of a deal with Democrats.
“As of now, we’re very far apart and because of that the president and we have discussed a short-term extension to UI [unemployment insurance] and the evictions so that we have some period to negotiate before it runs out,” Mnuchin said.
California lawmakers are currently working on a plan to have the state provide the extra $600 as negotiations continue in Congress, according to the Los Angeles Times on July 28.
Pelosi on Sunday confirmed both Democrats and Republicans are on the same page on the second stimulus check, but not on the $600 enhanced unemployment.
“We have been for the $600,” she said on ABC’s This Week. “They have a $200 proposal which does not meet the needs of working families. But the $600 is essential. It’s essential for America’s working families. And, again, to condescend, to disrespect their motivation is so amazing, how insistent the Republicans are about a working family and their $600 and how cavalier they are about other money that is going out.”
In a caucus call Monday, Pelosi said there likely won’t be a deal this week, according to a tweet from Politico reporter Heather Caygle.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said Tuesday he’s open to reinstating the $600 weekly bonus.
“The American people, in the end, need help, and wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team that has to sign it into law and the Democrat not-insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House is something I am prepared to support, even if I have some problems with certain parts of it,” he told reporters, according to The New York Times.