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Second stimulus update: Millions of Americans set to lose unemployment benefits day after Christmas as COVID-19 relief measure awaits signature

December 26, 2020
In The News

Financial assistance for millions of Americans hangs in the balance of the COVID-19 relief measure passed by the House and Senate earlier this week.

The bipartisan $908 billion COVID-19 stimulus package includes $600 stimulus checks to tens of millions of Americans earning less than $75,000 - as well as $600 for each child dependent - and an extra $300 in weekly unemployment aid through mid-March.

“If President Trump does not sign the latest COVID relief package into law today, pandemic-related unemployment assistance will abruptly cut off for millions of Americans tomorrow,” U.S. Rep. Richard Neal said on Saturday. “A failure to avert this benefits cliff would be devastating for struggling workers and their families who aren’t able to return to their jobs yet due to the ongoing public health crisis. As the economy continues to falter, folks are hanging on by a thread and desperately need this federal relief to continue so they can afford basics like food, medicine, diapers, phone bills, and housing.”

The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, estimates about 12 million Americans will lose pandemic unemployment assistance on Dec. 26 if the latest round of federal aid isn’t passed.

“These meager benefits—averaging $240 per week for PUA and $317 for PEUC and state UI—have become the sole lifeline keeping millions of families out of poverty and extreme hardship,” Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow with the foundation, wrote.

The bill also includes $284 billion in forgivable small business loans through the Payroll Protection Program; $20 billion in economic injury disaster loans in low-income communities; and $15 billion to live venues, independent movie theaters and other cultural businesses and nonprofits.

It’s not perfect, but will offer “desperately needed support” to Americans hit hardest by the economic impacts of the pandemic, Rep. Richard Neal told MassLive earlier this week.

“This deal is a good starting point and an important step in the short-term, but more must be done as the pandemic continues to grip the nation and the recession persists,” Neal said. “Congress will need to pass additional, substantial relief and stimulus legislation in 2021. Big investments must be made to create jobs, support families, and ensure states and localities have the resources necessary to continue providing essential services and distribute COVID vaccines quickly and fairly.”

Neal added that the Trump administration was “directly involved in negotiations” and called the president’s delay “underhanded and cruel.”

President Donald Trump in recent days called the bipartisan stimulus package a “disgrace” stuffed with wasteful spending and sided with Democrats in calling for the second round of direct payments to be increased to $2,000.

The president all but threatened a veto of the package if checks amounts are not increased. The relief package and omnibus spending bill were approved with veto-proof majorities.

House Democrats have already proposed an amendment to the stimulus package featuring $2,000 checks to most Americans and are set to vote on the measure on Monday.

Trump addressed the bill on Twitter again Saturday morning, writing, “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork’.”