Millions to lose unemployment assistance Saturday as Trump declines to sign coronavirus relief bill

Enhanced unemployment benefits set to expire this week

An estimated 14 million Americans expected to lose benefits; Aishah Hasnie reports.

Unemployment programs used by about 14 million people expire Saturday if President Trump refuses to sign into law a massive $900 million coronavirus relief bill that Congress overwhelmingly passed.

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On Dec. 26, two major pandemic-era programs for the unemployed run out.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance helps self-employed and gig workers who otherwise wouldn't be covered by traditional unemployment compensation. And the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program provides 13 additional weeks of help to those who ran out of state benefits.

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About 10 million unemployed workers will lose compensation immediately on Saturday and about 3.8 million additional workers will be at risk of losing their benefits within weeks, according to the Brookings Institution.

Hundreds of unemployed Kentucky residents wait in long lines outside the Kentucky Career Center for help with their unemployment claims on June 19, in Frankfort, Ken. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

Congress earlier this week approved an extension of these unemployment benefits through March 14 with wide bipartisan majorities and added a $300 per week federal boost for laid-off workers.

But Trump has yet to sign the broader legislation over concerns the stimulus checks of $600 are too small.

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Trump, away in Florida at his Mar-A-Lago resort, gave no indication Saturday he intends to sign the legislation. Rather, he seems to be doubling down on his demand for $2,000 checks.

"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,'" Trump tweeted.

Democrats have long wanted the higher stimulus payments, but settled for $600 due to demands from congressional Republicans in their negotiations. House Democrats intend to put a standalone bill on the floor Monday to boost the stimulus checks to $2,000, but it would still need support from the GOP-led Senate, which has been leery of higher spending.

President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday called on Trump to sign the bipartisan coronavirus stimulus bill.

"This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences," he said.

More deadlines are around the corner, too. The government could shut down at midnight Monday if the $1.4 trillion government funding bill paired with the coronavirus aid is not signed. And the eviction moratorium also ends on Dec. 31.

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House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., blasted Trump for keeping desperate families in limbo when the Trump administration was involved in negotiating this deal, he said.

"It is underhanded and cruel for the President now to refuse to sign it into law and potentially end this brutal year by inflicting even more pain and suffering on families in need," Neal said in a statement Saturday. "Republican leadership in Congress should join in calling for the signing of this legislation – which they helped write and voted for – to extend this crucial aid.”

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