Trump’s delay in signing the stimulus bill could keep $5.9 billion from unemployed Americans

  • President Donald Trump finally signed the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill nearly a week after it was passed by Congress.
  • The delay means that unemployed Americans have already missed a week of the $300 supplemental unemployment insurance the bill provides.
  • With nearly 20 million Americans receiving some form of unemployment benefits as of early December, that would add up to almost $6 billion in foregone payments.
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On Sunday, President Donald Trump finally signed the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package and $1.4 trillion omnibus package funding the government and avoiding a shutdown.

While many of the new law's provisions will help support individual, businesses, and communities across America, Trump's delay in signing the bill for nearly a week after it was passed by Congress is likely to be very costly for Americans receiving unemployment benefits.

Insider calculated how much, and it's quite a few billion.

Different kinds of funding

First, we need to consider the pipes through which this stimulus actually gets to people. 

One of the provisions in the relief package is a weekly $300 supplement to unemployment insurance, similar to the $600 weekly additional pay for unemployed workers included in the CARES Act in the spring and early summer.

The just-passed bill included an 11-week extension of the $300 supplemental payments, running through March 14, 2021. But because of Trump's delay in signing the bill into law, the first week of those payments has been missed, leaving millions of Americans without that initial $300 payment.

The supplemental payments go out to unemployed Americans receiving benefits from traditional state-run unemployment programs, as well as two federal programs implemented in the CARES Act. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program provides unemployment benefits to workers who have exceeded their normal state unemployment benefits, while the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program supports workers who would typically not be covered by traditional unemployment, like gig workers and workers directly affected by the pandemic.

As of the week ending December 5, the most recent data available from the Labor Department, about 5.5 million Americans were receiving traditional unemployment, 9.3 million were receiving checks from the PUA program, and 4.8 million were receiving pandemic emergency unemployment compensation.

The cost a week makes

All together, about 19.5 million Americans were receiving benefits from one of those three programs, and thus missed out on last week's $300 supplemental pay that they would have received if Trump had signed the legislation by Saturday. That represents about $5.9 billion in total supplemental unemployment insurance that wasn't paid out, assuming roughly similar numbers of Americans receiving benefits last week.

Although, as noted above, the supplemental $300 benefit was originally intended to run for 11 weeks, the missing week now effectively means that only 10 weeks of the extra money will be paid out, since the benefit is scheduled to end on March 14. Per The New York Times, it remains unclear whether or not states will be able to retroactively pay that money, with Labor Department guidance coming in the near future.

That could be just the start of problems caused by the delay — the PEUC and PUA programs were also slated to expire last week under the CARES Act, and were extended in the new bill. The Washington Post wrote that the delay in signing the bill could lead to further slowdowns in states implementing those extended programs, putting benefits for millions of Americans at risk.

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