December 28, 2020

Millions lose benefits as Trump refuses to sign Covid relief package

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Millions of Americans battling the financial hardships of the coronavirus pandemic lost their unemployment benefits on Sunday as Donald Trump continued to refuse to sign a relief package agreed in Congress and headed instead to the golf course.

The president’s belligerence over the bipartisan Covid relief and spending bill, that would have extended the benefits and given direct cash payments to most American families, drew the ire of senior Republicans, who accused Trump of inflicting more misery on citizens.

Doctors with a Covid-19 patient

“He should have weighed in eight months ago,” Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, said on CNN’s State of the Union in response to Trump’s claim that he would only sign if the relief package included $2,000 in direct payments instead of the $600 agreed.

“The paycheck protection plan ran out in July. Tomorrow, unemployment benefits run out. So sign the bill, get it done. And then, if the president wants to push for more, let’s get that done too.”

In a later appearance on ABC’s This Week, Hogan asserted: “Millions of Americans are going to suffer.”

Trump, who is spending the Christmas and New Year holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, raised objections to the $900bn relief bill only after it was passed by Congress last week, having been negotiated by his own treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin.

US President Donald Trump

The bill has lain unsigned on his desk since Christmas Day as the president, who was mostly silent through weeks of intense negotiations, spent the weekend at the Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach.

In a tweet criticizing the bill, Trump claimed, without clarification, that it was stuffed with “billions of dollars in pork”.

Meanwhile Joe Biden, who won November’s presidential election and who will be sworn in as Trump’s successor on 20 January, accused him of an “abdication of responsibility” in a statement on Saturday.

Democrats in the House of Representatives will try again on Monday to break the impasse by voting to increase the amount of the direct payments, a move thwarted once already by House Republicans on Christmas Eve.


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