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Trump's COVID bill delay leaves millions of desperate Americans in limbo

By Reuters | December 24th 2020 at 08:44:16 GMT +0300

Workers shovel snow from the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. [Reuters]

President Donald Trump’s threat late Tuesday to veto the $892 billion coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress this week may delay aid for millions of families on the cusp of eviction and about to lose unemployment benefits.

Trump’s apparent refusal to immediately sign the bill “has injected uncertainty or worse into the effort to protect millions of Americans from falling over a financial cliff,” said Mark Hamrick of Bankrate Wednesday.

Trump said the bill, which passed Congress Monday night, did not provide enough support for small businesses, and he asked Congress to increase stimulus checks to individuals to $2,000, instead of the “ridiculously low” $600 in the bill.

Many economists agree the bill’s aid is too low, but say the immediate support to the economy is still welcome and necessary.

These households are in limbo:

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14 MILLION COULD LOSE INCOME THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS- About 14.1 million people are receiving unemployment benefits through pandemic programs that are set to expire on Dec. 26, according to Labor Department data.

The bill extends two programs which support self-employed workers and the long-term unemployed until mid-March. It also adds an extra $300 per week in aid to the 20.3 million people receiving unemployment benefits.

Letting the bill lapse would amount to a sudden cutoff in income for households that already saw unemployment benefits shrink drastically over the summer, when a $600 weekly supplement expired.

CASH DWINDLES FOR HOUSEHOLDS

Democrats embraced Trump’s $2,000 check proposal Monday, but Republicans are unlikely to join them. In the meantime, the $600 checks that were supposed to be mailed by Treasury next week are on hold.

Households used the $1,200 direct cash payments from the Cares Act in the spring to boost spending, pay down debt and pad savings.

Now lower-income U.S. households, earning between $12,000 and $30,267, are quickly depleting savings, JPMorgan Chase Institute found in a report released earlier this month.

The cash cushion is nearly gone for these households, increasing the risk they could fall further behind on housing payments and other bills, the research showed.

EVICTION THREAT LOOMING

The bill extends a moratorium on evictions that expires Dec. 31 through the end of January, and provides $25 billion in emergency rental assistance.

About 40 million people could face eviction over the next several months, according to research from the Aspen Institute. They owe about $70 billion in unpaid back rent and utilities, Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi estimates.


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