From Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA08)’s office:
Trump Will Cost Millions Of Americans One Week Of Permanently-Lost Unemployment Benefits If He Fails To Act By The End Of The Day
December 26, 2020 (Washington, D.C.) – Unemployment benefits are set to expire for an estimated twelve million Americans tomorrow unless recently-passed appropriations and relief legislation is signed into law. A substantial amount of those benefits, totaling billions of dollars, will be irretrievably lost for those dependent on them unless President Trump signs that bill today. Unlike the larger expiration of unemployment benefits which will go into effect tomorrow, this consequence of the President withholding his signature would not be reversed if he changes his mind and subsequently signs the bill.
“If Donald Trump does not sign the relief bill by the end of the day he will deny billions of dollars in support to some of the neediest people in this country during the holidays season,” said Beyer. “If he really wants to help people who are struggling amid the pandemic and economic crisis, he will sign this bill and then press his Republican allies in Congress to expand direct payments. The House will send legislation to the Senate within days to increase $600 direct payments to $2000, but Trump must sign this bill into law for it to take effect. Trump’s refusal to sign this relief legislation immediately would result in devastating and unnecessary hardship for millions, and soon a government shutdown. These consequences are unacceptable, and he must act now.”
The unemployment titles of the appropriations and relief legislation (beginning on page 1927) extend authorization and funding for federally-supported unemployment programs including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) into mid-March [An explainer for these programs is available here with a flowchart here].
However, new $300 payments of enhanced benefits (FPUC) cannot begin until the President’s signature gives the bill force of law, and states are barred from processing payments for weeks ending before the bill is signed. Once signed, the bill will still cut off funding and authorization at the mid-March date demanded by Senate Republicans, and there is no provision to restore the first of the 11 weeks of enhanced benefits, which will be denied to unemployment insurance recipients. The impact could be significantly worse depending on agency guidance that will determine the impacts of a delayed signature on the other programs.
Outdated state unemployment systems have been put under tremendous strain by the massive numbers of applicants for assistance and the sudden transformation of unemployment programs, which will mean weeks or months of delays to process extensions to benefit payments that will ultimately be made retroactively. Senate Republicans balked at the cost of making federal support for and authorization of enhanced benefit payments retroactive before the bill’s date of enactment, and because the White House pressed lawmakers to approve the bill and gave every assurance to Congress that the President would sign it, the bill was drafted to provide an eleven-week extension of benefits beginning at the end of December.
Delayed enactment of the bill will effectively cut the overall number of benefit weeks to ten, at a cost of at least $300 per recipient depending on the state and recipient’s circumstances, and on federal guidance about how such a delay would impact some of the programs.
Rep. Beyer is expected to chair Congress’ Joint Economic Committee in the upcoming session of Congress, and is the author of the Worker Relief and Security Act, which would tie enhanced federal unemployment benefits to public health crisis declarations and economic conditions using automatic stabilizers.