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Unemployment benefits expire ahead of Trump's signature on government funding bill

Unemployment benefits expire
Unemployment benefits expire as government is set to shutdown 02:44

Jobless benefits for millions of Americans lapsed on Sunday before President Trump signed the COVID-19 economic relief package and accompanying $1.4 trillion spending bill to fund the government. Congress passed the bill December 21 after weeks of negotiations that included members of Mr. Trump's own administration.

Mr. Trump signed the bill Sunday night, about 18 hours after unemployment benefits expired. 

An estimated 12 million Americans lost their unemployment assistance after two key government programs authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, expired on December 26, according to a study released last week by The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. 

Mr. Trump had refused to sign the bill over the $600 stimulus checks, instead insisting on checks of $2,000. Over the weekend, he also instructed Congress to get rid of the "pork" in the bill, although he didn't specify what he means by pork, which generally refers to attachments added onto bills that are pet or local causes of members of Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House would vote Monday on a standalone bill that would provide $2,000 checks to Americans. She said the bill had been blocked by Republicans. Mr. Trump said in a statement on Sunday night that the Senate would begin to work on this bill, although it's unclear what future it would have, since Senate Republicans have previously blocked such payments.

The massive $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief bill includes not only the $600 stimulus checks but also enhanced unemployment benefits, $284.45 billion in lending for small businesses, $25 billion in direct rental assistance, $82 billion for education funding, $45 billion for public transit systems and $13 billion for increased food stamps and child nutrition benefits. 

The bill also extends the eviction moratorium for another month. If it isn't passed, millions of renters who have fallen behind on their rent could face eviction.

In addition to economic relief, the deal also earmarks more than $30 billion to support the procurement and distribution of the coronavirus vaccine and $27 billion for testing and state health care programs. 

President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday urged Mr. Trump to sign the bill. 

"It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don't know if they'll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump's refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority," Mr. Biden said in a statement on Saturday.   

Mr. Trump is in Florida at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the holiday. 

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