Trump’s signature of the $900 billion Covid relief package extends unemployment benefits for millions of jobless gig-workers and independent contractors, as well as the long-term unemployed.
The estimated 12 million people in two key pandemic unemployment programs, who were facing their last payment this weekend, will now receive benefits for another 11 weeks. Plus, all those collecting jobless payments will receive a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March.
However, because Trump did not sign the bill on Saturday, those in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs will likely not receive a payment for the final week of the year. And the $300 federal enhancement may only last 10 weeks instead of 11 weeks for most folks. That’s because states can’t provide benefits for weeks that start before programs are authorized, but the legislation calls for the extra payments to end on March 14.
Also, because Congress waited until late December to strike a deal, those in the two pandemic unemployment programs will likely experience a break in payments of several weeks while state agencies reprogram their computers. But the benefits are retroactive.
The Covid-19 relief legislation was passed by Congress on Monday and was flown to Mar-a-Lago on Thursday to await Trump’s signature. But after sitting on the sidelines during the negotiations, Trump emerged with an eleventh-hour complaint that a separate provision in the deal, which the President’s own White House helped broker, would only provide up to $600 in direct payments. Trump wanted to send out $2,000 checks.
A lengthy delay
Aides had prepared for the President to sign the bill as early as Christmas Eve, when it arrived at 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 7 p.m. ceremony, complete with a desk and chair for Trump to sit, and his customary pens at the ready, according to the source.
However, as the hour approached, aides were informed the President would not be signing the relief bill that evening. One 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 not offered any clarity since posting the video objecting to the bill on Tuesday night.
When a deal was struck between congressional leaders, Trump’s aides had signed off believing the President was on board, though two officials previously told CNN they did not believe he was walked through the package in detail.
In fact, throughout his video message asking Congress to amend it, Trump railed against several provisions that were actually part of the omnibus spending bill, not the Covid relief bill.
“It is 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 appropriates money for all the federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year — was combined with the stimulus deal, funds allocated to the omnibus bill don’t mean less is available for the Covid relief bill.
Still, the President had publicly maintained his opposition to the legislation — leaving small business support, jobless 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.