Trump's delay on signing the stimulus bill could have cost unemployed Americans $5.9 billion — but now new reporting suggests payments won't lapse as feared

GettyDonald Trump.
  • President Donald Trump finally signed the $US900 billion COVID-19 relief bill nearly a week after it was passed by Congress.
  • The delay meant that unemployed Americans could have missed a week of the $US300 supplemental unemployment insurance the bill provides.
  • However, the Department of Labour told The Hill and CNBC on Tuesday that payments would continue as planned.
  • With nearly 20 million Americans receiving some form of unemployment benefits as of early December, a lapse in the supplemental insurance would have added up to almost $US6 billion in foregone payments.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump finally signed the $US900 billion COVID-19 relief package and $US1.4 trillion omnibus package funding the government and avoiding a shutdown.

While many of the new law’s provisions will help support individual, businesses, and communities across America, Trump’s delay in signing the bill for nearly a week after it was passed by Congress could have been very costly for Americans receiving unemployment benefits.

However, a Department of Labour spokesperson said in a statement that the agency “does not anticipate that eligible claimants will miss a week of benefits due to the timing of the law’s enactment,” including a $US300 per week supplement boosting pay for those out of work, as reported by The Hill and CNBC on Tuesday.

Insider calculated how much money was at risk due to the lapse, which added up to quite a few billion.

Different kinds of funding

First, we need to consider the pipes through which this stimulus actually gets to people.

One of the provisions in the relief package is a weekly $US300 supplement to unemployment insurance, similar to the $US600 weekly additional pay for unemployed workers included in the CARES Act in the spring and early summer.

The just-passed bill included an 11-week extension of the $US300 supplemental payments, running through March 14, 2021. But because of Trump’s delay in signing the bill into law, there was a chance that the first week of those payments would have been missed, leaving millions of Americans without that initial $US300 payment.

Fortunately, it appears that the Department of Labour will prevent that from happening.

The supplemental payments go out to unemployed Americans receiving benefits from traditional state-run unemployment programs, as well as two federal programs implemented in the CARES Act. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program provides unemployment benefits to workers who have exceeded their normal state unemployment benefits, while the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program supports workers who would typically not be covered by traditional unemployment, like gig workers and workers directly affected by the pandemic.

As of the week ending December 5, the most recent data available from the Labour Department, about 5.5 million Americans were receiving traditional unemployment, 9.3 million were receiving checks from the PUA program, and 4.8 million were receiving pandemic emergency unemployment compensation.

The cost a week makes

All together, about 19.5 million Americans were receiving benefits from one of those three programs, and thus were at risk of missing out on last week’s $US300 supplemental pay. If Trump had signed the legislation by Saturday, that money would have automatically gone out to unemployed workers. That represents about $US5.9 billion in total supplemental unemployment insurance at risk, assuming roughly similar numbers of Americans receiving benefits last week.

Although, as noted above, the supplemental $US300 benefit was originally intended to run for 11 weeks, experts were concerned that the missing week would have effectively meant that only 10 weeks of the extra money would be paid out, since the benefit is scheduled to end on March 14.

However, a Labour Department spokesperson said in a statement that the $US300 supplement will run “for the weeks of unemployment beginning after December 26, 2020, and ending on or before March 14, 2021,” suggesting that all 11 weeks will indeed be covered.

Per The New York Times, it remains unclear whether or not states will be able to retroactively pay that money, with Labour Department guidance coming in the near future.

That could be just the start of problems caused by the delay — the PEUC and PUA programs were also slated to expire last week under the CARES Act, and were extended in the new bill. According to The Hill, the Labour Department expects those programs to continue as planned. However, The Washington Post wrote that the delay in signing the bill could lead to further slowdowns in states implementing those extended programs, putting benefits for millions of Americans at risk.

This post will be updated as the story develops. Insider is awaiting comment from the Department of Labour.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.